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TV Tropes Monday: N.G.O. Superpower


 

Tweet of the Day: The Stars Seem So Far Away

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An N.G.O. Superpower is a private entity, be it a corporation, individual or terrorist organization that while it is not a nation state it has the power to rival one. They are the perfect villains (and sometime heroes) in James Bond style action movies, comic books and not a few video games.  They are a great source of greedy self-serving corporate drones, hordes of faceless goons, and maniacally super-villains bent of rearranging the cosmos.

But the political and historical implications of this trope. Throughout human history power has flowed from powerful individuals to governments and back again. Take the East India Company who was formed under royal charter to trade with the east indies only to come to rule India. It came at a time when the English crown reach was limited both in military power as well as finances, but by the time the company was dissolved, the British Empire was on its full swing and did not need companies such as these to lead its colonization efforts. The tendency is that when governments are weak, private actors rise in power. When governments gain strength then tend to reduce the reach of private actors. The same happened at the end of Japan’s Sengoku Jidai (The Warring States Period). The warlords that reestablished central government authority not only over feuding feudal lords but several N.G.Os like groups of warrior monks and others that threatened their power.

Another aspect of this trope is an essential truth about military power: it is wasted wealth. You can stab someone with a knife as well as a sword, but you can go back to craving your turkey with a knife while the sword goes back into the sheath. Military spending is a net loss, the tools of war rarely have civilian applications. You can make a tidy profit selling said tools, once you start fielding them, eventually the cost of having them will exceed whatever gains they might have provided.

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