This isn’t just an anti-government rant - stay with me for a minute.
I guess I’m pretty naive when it comes to the governments of the world. I expect individual politicians to lie to me. I even expect entire news agencies to conspire against me and withhold the truth. But I normally don’t expect my government to conspire effectively against me. Effective is the important word here, because I don’t believe the US government is effective in anything they do. So when we find out that some of the conspiracy theories are true (IRS bullying conservatives, spying on Americans including the press, intentionally denying veterans medical services in order to get bonuses, the list is way too long to go on!), I am at first amazed that our government was able to accomplish anything like this, because I considered them too inept. They fooled me.
But with evidence that a government established by the people for the people with checks and balances in place has proved to be corrupt and actually detrimental to the people, I can only think what would happen in a monarchy? (A real one, not the constitutional monarchies like the UK.) I’ll bet most of your fantasy kingdoms (or empires) are monarchies. They might be feudal or autocratic or whatever, but at the top are a small number of folks (a family, a guild, a religion) that holds ultimate authority, and there isn’t anyone in place to slow them down. Man, what are they like?
The Fletnern government I spend the most time on is the Council of Barons, specifically the Barony of Forsbury. Edward Highell is the Baron of Forsbury, a land that is roughly 70 miles (N to S) and 45 miles (E to W). (That’s bigger than Delaware, but smaller then Connecticut.) Edward is not a nice guy, but he doesn’t abuse his subjects in these manipulative (scandalous) ways. He abuses his enemies like this! He has sent assassins to kill people who were spreading lies about him. He has had one of his closest friends seek out and murder any woman who claimed to have his illegitimate child (to secure the ascension of his legitimate son). Many of these women were lying, but some weren’t. Oh - and of course the children were killed as well.
Maybe the issue with the blatant manipulation of your own people does come from the fact that too many in government see people of the other party as their enemies, so when they break the law and then stand up and lie about it in such flagrant tones, they see themselves as protecting their own and standing against a powerful enemy. I have multiple factions in some of my governments, but they don’t hate each other with the venom that seems to exist here. This is probably because I am naive.
I know people say that our government has never been more polarized then they are now. I don’t know. Our history books were dumbed down because our educators thought children were stupid. Hamilton fought a duel with Burr, so they must have truly hated each other (even if the “reason” for the duel was a matter of honor). The state of affairs after the Civil War has had hundreds of books written about the time. Throughout history political enemies have so hated each other that they did resort to poisoning, or accusations of witchcraft (which led to death), or wars, or kidnappings, etc. etc. This goes right back to my True Evil post. Are we as game masters and world creators including enough evilness in our world leaders? After all, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
I’m going to make one counter point here about fantasy government corruption. In the USA, politicians often come from wealthy families, but not always. In any case, they are not raised knowing that they will one day assume supreme power. Knowing what’s ahead and being trained to handle it can be a good thing. It can be a horrible thing and breed kings who are condescending from the age of 1, but it can breed rulers who believe/understand that the people of the land are theirs to care for. In the same way that Christians are called to be stewards of the world by God, the divinely appointed kings often wanted their people to prosper. Prosperous people pay more in taxes, and happy people are typically less likely to rebel. For these or less selfish reasons, a king would want his people to succeed. This is how most of my Fletnern kings rule. They want their people to be happy. They want wealthy (or at least well fed) people who are happy with their rule so that they will rise up into a militia should the king ever need them to. Many of these rulers are inept, but they don’t persecute their own people. I think I’m going to stick with this theory of nobility, but I may have to add some really nasty buggers in there as well, just to keep the reality.