Fascist, but Inefficient

Those Wacky Nazis. Sure, they might be brutal and genocidal, but at least they can make trains run on time and all that good stuff... only, the actual Nazis couldn't even do that. With military resources spread across four completely separate services that had to be actively bullied by Hitler into cooperating (Heer, Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe, SS)note , four economic institutions which competed for limited resourcesnote , two General Headquarters note , two intelligence services (Abwehr, Gestapo) that never shared information and occasionally offed each other's agentsnote , two civil services and two courts (one regular/normal, one political), and five atomic bomb programs that shared no information or resources with each other note , Nazi Germany was actually one of the most inefficient states in history — and that's not even accounting for the gross corruption. Hitler himself made quite a few amateur mistakes, creating a two-front war, never allowing a retreat, and invading Russia during winter with an army unprepared for cold weather. In Real Life, the only thing efficient about dictatorships is their total control of the media, which they use to portray themselves as being extremely efficient (and benevolent) despite their crippling factional in-fighting and endemic corruption.

In fiction, the administrative incompetence of authoritarian regimes is often taken to comedic extremes. They'll enforce laws in a haphazard manner — extreme draconian punishment for jaywalkers, but anyone with enough sense to wear a Paper-Thin Disguise slips right under the radar. It appears that in their respective universes, fascism is controlled by a series of obstructive bureaucrats, who aren't really interested in things working so much as they are in seriously inconveniencing people.

This trope isn't just limited to fascism, but authoritarianism in general. Certain types of Communists, colonial imperialists, and even good ol' fashioned non-ideological tyrants, most notoriously military dictatorships, can fit under this trope. In fact, the trope runs a wide gamut of malice and effectiveness. This kind of government can actually be run by Lawful Good characters whose haphazard enforcement of the law usually keeps the heroes from doing their job. La Résistance may operate under the auspice of a mildly incompetent evil government, such that their activities go unnoticed. Other such governments are just willfully ignorant of certain lawbreakers for whatever reason, be it prejudice, corruption or plain old laziness. A distinct possibility is that the boss really is Surrounded by Idiots just as he's been saying all along.

Of course, the people living under such a regime will still talk about how efficient the Fascist, But Inefficient government is... because if they don't, they stand a good chance of getting arrested and shot. This is Truth in Television; turns out it's kinda hard to oppress people, try to Take Over the World and run a functioning government at the same time.

Compare Dystopia Is Hard. Contrast Repressive but Efficient. See The Other Wiki for Real Life examples.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass: Britannia enforces ethnic inequality. You get 20 years for going on a drug binge, they have public mass executions, etc. Britannian gangsters, by contrast, live in huge buildings visible to everyone and don't seem to fear any legal repercussions whatsoever. One gangster nearly kills a (Britannian) student to protect his reputation as a chess player and is only stopped by a sudden attack from Zero's Black Knights. They also act more or less with impunity. But what do they expect when the Emperor openly approves murder and theft in his public speeches as strength overcoming weakness?
  • The World of Mana in Cross Ange may be home of the most excessively fascist and evil society known to man. However, they're equally as incompetent and idiotic. Their methods of execution are more of tormenting the oppressed Norma than efficiently killing them. The leadership waste time bickering over one another rather than getting things done themselves, and anything that does get done is through the help of the Big Bad. And the lack of war resulted in generations of complacency and once a war comes into their society, they have no means of fighting back.

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin:
    • The nation of Borduria. When Tintin and Captain Haddock sneak into the country to rescue the kidnapped Professor Calculus, they repeatedly manage to evade the Bordurian army, police force and secret service, to the point where they manage to get rid of the Bordurian agents sent to tail them by getting them drunk. Humorously, it was lampshaded by Herge himself, who named the agents Kronik and Klumsi.
    • Same goes for San Theodoros, where the two dictators, General Alcazar and General Tapioca, are both so ineffective they constantly overthrow each other in the blink of an eye.
  • Judge Dredd: Mega-City One has a ludicrous number of laws and the Judges act as Judge, Jury, and Executioner by definition. Is it any wonder that the crime rate is through the roof and the vast majority of its citizenry live in poverty?

    Fan Works 
  • The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum: It was already well-established that TCB!Equestria (aka, the Solar Empire) is a Crapsaccharine World, but it's not until the Calm Before the Storm side story comes along and shows just how bad it all really is. First off, the truly massive number of newfoals coming into Equestria has overstretched their resources to the breaking point. Making things worse is that the barrier vaporizes everything in its path (agriculture, infrastructure, buildings, materials, and information about how to create these things), leaving the conquered lands useless to the Imperials; in short, the barrier may be the only thing truly giving the Solar Empire a fighting chance against humanity (as it's clear the war would've been over in less than a week without it) but they they're also screwing themselves over badly as they're destroying the very resources they could've used to more easily shoulder their explosive population growth and colonize Earth. Moreover, the war has gone on for so long and has been so brutal that morale is at an all-time low, with only fanaticism and terror being able to hold their heads above the water, and even that is failing.
  • In Wish Carefully, Harry decides to strike a deal with Voldemort and the Death Eaters with a Magically Binding Contract wherein he and the other Light-aligned wizards will leave Britain and make sure that the dark side will never have to deal with Muggles or muggleborns ever again. It isn't long after the Light exiles leave that the Death Eaters learn that it was regular honest Light supporters who had provided nearly all the goods and services that kept everything running smoothly. One specific example is given of the time when the Ministry of Magic's magical lifts began breaking down. Not only had the clerk who oversaw the maintenance left in the Exodus, so had the artificers he had previously contracted. In the end, the Death Eaters had to hire expensive goblin artificers simply because none of them had the kind of skills necessary to fix the problem. And that's not even getting to the fact that the pureblood supremacists' inbreeding is producing nothing but squibs and their population is slowly dying out, as well as how Voldemort just becomes more and more unhinged to the point that by the time Lucius Malfoy is an old man on his last legs, everyone has come to hate Voldemort so much that the Malfoys and several other Death Eaters are gathering together to either kill Voldemort themselves or to deliver him to Harry Potter so that he can kill him for them.
  • Cultstuck has the twelve canonical trolls running rings around the threshcutioner trainees send to kill Karkat and anyone who knows him. The sequel, Earthbent, has a chapter that makes it clear why this was possible: nearly everyone involved in the investigation was either spectacularly incompetent or focusing on their personal drama rather than the task at hand, if not both. And because they expected the subordinates they sent to investigate for them to see too much, they sent either disposable pawns or people they actively wanted dead... none of which contributes to getting an accurate report back. It's implied that this is, in fact, completely normal for Alternia. By the end of the chapter, it's somewhat surprising that anyone actually noticed the replica Lance of the Summoner purposefully left in Karkat's hive for what it is... even though pictures of it have already been forwarded to one investigator's potential avenger and posted anonymously on the troll equivalent of the Internet.
  • When Oshehant, the capitol city of the planet Virmok, is visited by the Third Doctor and Sara Kingdom in Game of Doctors Chapter 27 most of the officials are shown as very incompetent and factional, scheming against each other. The guy in charge of the City's Security is suspicious of the Doctor and Sara, but lets them into a building of intelligence reports when they are recommended by a rival commander, in the hope that if they are spies his rival will get in trouble. The woman in charge of the Intelligence Building is implied to be having an affair with her deputy, her dim-witted second cousin and dislikes the only competent officer that appears in the story, partially due to being a Female Misogynist and due to an apparent family feud.
  • Much like the Ministry of Magic in-canon, the Ministry in Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past is presented this way as well. When Harry has Peter Pettigrew arrested by ministry officials, providing unavoidable proof of Sirius' innocence, they completely change guards and wardens at Azkaban and deny visitation rights to them, trying to starve Sirius to death in his cell and pretend nothing has changed rather than admit that the Ministry made a mistake. Harry later lampshades this corruption in his interview with Rita.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Lion King has Scar allude in his Villain Song to the tremendous injustice he suffered when Mufasa became king instead of him, and implies that he's been scheming to take the throne for years. Scar proves to be an expert Chessmaster in murdering Mufasa and manipulating Simba into running away, but when he finally obtains the power he craves he proves to be utterly incompetent at actually wielding it. Under his leadership, he indulges the hyenas' greed (forcing the prey to leave), his subjects starve, and the hyenas who form his power base are grumbling long before Simba ever comes back, admitting Scar's brother was better at ruling than him. For some reason he thinks the grumbling is because he hasn't secured the succession, rather than the fact that everyone's starving. Finally his inefficiency and trying to blame the hyenas leads to them eating him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Terry Gilliam's Brazil is pretty much this. Starting with the fact that the plot is triggered when someone arrests Buttle [shoemaker] thinking he's Tuttle [renegade plumber] because of a typo... Buttle dies under torture because they look at the wrong medical chart as well.
  • In Charlie Chan at the Olympics, much play is made of mocking the bewilderment of the "ruthlessly efficient" German police detective facing an international murder-and-espionage plot ("Such things do not happen in Berlin!"). The film was made in 1936.
  • The Running Man has this in spades. The totalitarian society's enforcers are distracted by their own Bread and Circuses. We hear the guards making small talk about how they never miss an episode of the Running Man, the network's jingle writer Amber Mendez excuses her purchases of black market clothing (when the protagonist Ben Richards discovers them) by saying "C'mon, everyone does it!" and the unedited footage she later discovers and retrieves that exposes all the regime's lies about him may well have been retained through sheer laziness, i.e. the TV station's bureaucrats never throw anything away.
  • Possibly the most Nazi line of all time, in The Train: "I'm tired of your inefficiency, Dietrich!"
  • The Wicked Stepmother of A Cinderella Story is utterly incompetent at running the diner she inherits: she constantly belittles its workers, eventually forcing them to quit en masse, and the only reason it still has any customers is because of Rhonda's exceptional people skills. note 

  • This appears to be the main function of the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter. It didn't start out totally fascist (the incumbent Minister of Magic comes off as a very unflattering Expy of Tony Blair more than anything), but it surely didn't come off as very democratic. For example:
    • The main wizarding prison is located at Azkaban, which is staffed by Dementors, evil creatures which suck the joy out of people. A place which by all accounts is A Fate Worse Than Death. There are apparently no other Wizarding prisons, so you get sent there whether you were convicted of murder or insurance fraud. It doesn't seem to bother any of the authorities that such an extreme punishment is guaranteed to turn anyone sentenced there either insane or evil (usually both) within a few weeks, not to mention driving criminals to extreme methods to avoid imprisonment; knowing this was in store for them, no wizard would ever surrender to the authorities. Additionally, since Dementors are Always Chaotic Evil, Dumbledore repeatedly warns the Ministry of the folly of using them as wardens, as Voldemort could make them all defect without a second thought simply by providing them with more opportunities to fill their bellies - simultaneously adding a legion of dark creatures to his followers and effortlessly releasing all the Death Eaters imprisoned in Azkaban. All this would be bad enough if everyone sentenced to Azkaban was actually guilty, but... Well, see below.
    • According to the Pensieve, trials seem to be decided more on the personal opinions of the judiciary (by simple majority vote) than on any actual consideration of evidence. Hagrid and Sirius weren't even afforded the luxury of a trial in the first place!
    • The practice of being an Animagus requires government registration. We see how well this works because over the course of the books we know of at least four characters (James Potter, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and Rita Skeeter) who are illegal practicing Animagi. The relative ease with which they acquired their powers seems to indicate that this isn't really a magic type that can be easily regulated.
    • Once Voldemort is exposed, the Ministry of Magic spends most of their time trying to pretend he doesn't exist. At one point this goes so far as to accusing Harry of lying when they detect him using powerful magic in the presence of a Muggle. Harry does this because he's being attacked by Dementors, and the Ministry at no point bothers to offer an alternate explanation as to why Harry would cast a spell whose only use is repelling dementors, in violation of a wizarding law which he was well aware of - apparently he was just doing it to aggravate the ministry. (In fairness, the Patronus does have some uses outside of Dementor-stopping, being able to repel certain other Dark creatures and send messages, but he's got owls for the latter and the former wouldn't change anything.)
    • When Voldemort does take over, his regime is incredibly inefficient: the Weasleys, Hagrid, the Lovegoods, anyone that has the faintest connection with Harry should have been captured within hours, and used as hostages to make Harry turn himself in. "Mudblood registration" was clearly supposed to be the Fantastic Racism equivalent of the yellow badge, instead of just the Death Eaters killing them as soon as they found them.
    • The functioning of wizarding society is so utterly inefficient, even the sports consist largely of an implausible number of penalties, few if any of which are ever called except by snarky commenters since overzealous refs tend to get banished to the Sahara. On the other hand, the only Wizarding school in all of Britain still uses "throw the 12-year-olds in a forest with actual human-eating monsters for a night to straighten them out" as a routine form of punishment. Likewise, duelling is illegal, but taught as an extracurricular activity. The ministry might have the right to imprison lawbreakers indefinitely with no reason given, but the law is so incomprehensible, it's hard to imagine any part of society functioning even to the limited degree shown in the books. Driven home by how the sole sympathetic Ministry worker we see is so hopelessly corrupt, he'd "have to drag himself before the tribunal if he ever raided [his own] home". (Arthur Weasley— his job is enforcing the prohibition on enchanting technological artifacts, and his passionate hobby is collecting enchanted technological artifacts. This is one of the protagonist's beloved father figures.)
    • Not to mention how hindered they are by their Fantastic Racism against the muggles. The muggle and wizarding governments are apparently aware of each other, but only if you count the Minister for Magic occasionally popping into the Prime Minister's office without warning to give him vague updates on the magical world. One has to imagine that if they'd maybe asked muggles for some help, things like security cameras or guns would have given them a real leg up against the Death Eaters (though it's hard to say for sure, as some technologies tend to go haywire around too much magic, assuming they work at all).
  • The government of "looters" in Atlas Shrugged started out with relatively minor regulations to the economy and ended up with Directive 10-289, which basically overrides the economic freedoms of everybody in the nation. Resource shortages, societal collapse, starvation, and trains not running on time ensue. The fact that John Galt is withdrawing as many productive people from society as he can also helped in the deterioration.
  • The WW2 novels by Sven Hassel have the supposedly efficient war machine and civil administration of the Nazis actually be corrupt and massively wasteful of resources and human lives. Wholly Truth in Television.
  • The Final Empire in Mistborn has elements of this; the Lord Ruler is concerned with the survival of humanity, but is largely detached from directly ruling it, leaving control of his government primarily to the Obligators and nobility. These groups are more interested in backstabbing each other than they are in running a productive empire. Of course, the whole system turns out to be good for two things-perpetuating itself and terrorizing the lower classes (having an immortal Physical God at its head helps) so it still takes a ridiculous amount of work to overthrow.
    • Justified since the Lord Ruler's only two real concerns were hoarding atium for the purpose of weakening Ruin, and preventing total human extinction long enough for him to Ascend To A Higher Plane OF Existence and fix everything he messed up the last time. Beyond that, he really didn't care what happened unless somebody either broke into his palace or called him out personally.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The chapter The scouring of the Shire shows us that Otho and then Sharkey with their army of men had seized power over the Shire, destroying the government, changing the Hobbit’s institutions to spy on them and arresting those who oppose them, looting under the excuse of "fair distribution", giving a lot of stupid rules, building ugly buildings and destroying all of the forest and polluting the rivers. And the army of men is nothing but bandits that are defeated relatively easily when four Hobbits rally the people against them. This is intentional, meant to show the Villain Decay of Saruman, who had plans to take control of Middle-Earth, but ends up just bullying Hobbits largely out of spite.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has Cleon "The Butcher King" (so named because he used to be a butcher, though he fits this title in both ways) becoming King of Astapor after Daenerys eliminates the "Good Masters", the tyrannical ruling class of the city. Cleon tries to make his own Unsullied (eunuch soldiers who are renowned as among the best fighters in the world due to a brutal training regime) by just castrating youths from the former ruling Houses. However the new regime starts collapsing under Cleon, leading to his murder, several rulers who quickly die themselves, and the untrained Unsullied quickly being slaughtered by the sellswords hired by the city of Yunkai.
    • The Yunkai'i, another city of slavers, is run by the Wise Masters, who are some of the most laughably incompotent villains in the series. Their various armed forces include a group of slaves who are chained together to stop them running away and men standing on stilts. Despite the poor quality of Cleon's Unsullied the Yunkai'i are almost defeated anyway, having to be saved by the sellswords they look down on. However to the sellswords the Wise Masters are a laughing stock, being given names such as Lord Wobblecheeks, the Little Pigeon, and the Drunken Conqueror. When their General "The Yellow Whale" dies they decide to rearrange command daily, leading to chaos as their military plans keep changing.
  • In Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here, the Windrip administration is very efficient when it comes to suppressing and punishing dissent. It's grossly inefficient when it comes to educating the next generation or formulating sound economic policies. Several years after Windrip seizes power, the educational system is a bad joke and poverty abounds.
  • In Primo Levi's memoir of Auschwitz, If This Is a Man, the author notes with some sarcasm that, for all that the camp was a highly efficient death machine, the Buna factory he was assigned to never produced a pound of synthetic rubber. That is to say, the process of creation as opposed to destruction was apparently beyond the capabilities of the camp administration.
  • In Star Wars The Empire can build massive superweapons and send tons of Mooks into the proverbial meat-grinder, but the Star Wars Expanded Universe loves to show that the government was a cesspit of backstabbing, in-fighting, nepotism, bribery, and lost paperwork. As flawed as the Republic can be it managed to stand for 25,000 years, and the Empire lasting 38 years from Palpatine's coup to the peace treaty with the New Republic was a statistical eyeblink.
  • In the Heralds of Valdemar series, King Ancar of Hardorn basically treated his entire country as a machine to build and supply armies that he could use to conquer his neighbors. Which might have been a workable economic model, if only he'd been able to conquer any of his neighbors. By the time he was assassinated (for trying to conquer Valdemar - for the third time), he had looted his own country of so many people and resources that some places didn't have enough able-bodied people left behind to keep enough farms running to feed themselves, much less supply the armies.
  • Older Than Steam: In Utopia, Thomas More explored the various problems with despotism and tried to offer solutions. Here, he describes the utter folly of All Crimes Are Equal.
    I think putting thieves to death is not lawful; and it is plain and obvious that it is absurd and of ill consequence to the commonwealth that a thief and a murderer should be equally punished; for if a robber sees that his danger is the same if he is convicted of theft as if he were guilty of murder, this will naturally incite him to kill the person whom otherwise he would only have robbed; since, if the punishment is the same, there is more security, and less danger of discovery, when he that can best make it is put out of the way; so that terrifying thieves too much provokes them to cruelty.
  • In The Man in the High Castle, the fact that there are multiple factions within the Nazi establishment - notably the Abwehr and the SD - whose remits overlap and who hate each others guts, proves to be highly significant to the plot.
  • Zig-zagged in Victoria by the Republic of Azania, a Lady Land inhabiting a Crapsack World that has gone fascist due to its fearnote  of its male-dominated neighbors. On the one hand, they are one of the setting's most scientifically and technologically advanced nations, with a working industrial economy in a largely post-apocalyptic future America, and able to equip their troops accordingly. On the other hand, their critical personnel shortage forces them to have badly trained pilots fly their advanced fighters, which significantly dents their theoretical advantage in the air—That is, largely the same problem as the Nazi Luftwaffe had in real life, though the parallel is almost certainly unintentional.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: House Bolton. While Roose Bolton is more intelligent than most of them, their reliance on pure brutality to take the North is beginning to backfire. For instance, due to their tendency to have very sociopathic soldiers they have very little support among commoners and their high value hostages tend to lose value after being tortured by their men. Combatants who have become aware of their reputation are now also reluctant to surrender to them, making their wars more difficult than they need to be. Indeed, this forces Roose to enter into a risky alliance with Littlefinger and engage Ramsay to Sansa, a known fugitive persecuted by his Lannister patrons, to get whatever little legitimacy as he can claim.
  • Hogan's Heroes: Actually, the whole point of this series – Nazis who were hopelessly inept.
  • Specifically invoked in an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series: John Gill, a noted historian, is sent by The Federation to observe a primitive planet, only to break the Prime Directive and set up a Nazi-like government on the planet to tame it. He directly states that he wanted to use the efficiency of the Nazis to bring order to the world without bringing the malice associated with it in as well, and for a while it actually worked. However, it wasn't efficient enough to stop his second in command from drugging him and seizing power, leaving him as a comatose figurehead as his new government fell back into the atrocities of Nazi Germany.
  • The Alliance in Firefly tries to be totalitarian, but doesn't have the resources to prevent the outer worlds from degenerating into societies ruled by the nastiest thug with the most guns and mooks. Although from what we see the inner worlds appear to be held on a much tighter leash; the entire setting is partly an allegory of America in the 19th century, where the east part of the country was 'civilized' (i.e. held together by the rule of law) but the west was wild and untamed, and remained so for a fairly long period. It's also the case that the Core Worlds are more corrupt than the nastiest of the frontier worlds, where are least you can see who's got their boot on your throat and why. This also matches a large swath of 19th century America, where sophisticated Eastern cities were often also corruptly ruled by wealthy criminals while western towns with corrupt rule by criminals were at least rather open about it.
    • Rule of Symbolism: According to DVD Commentary, communicating this "overwhelmingly powerful but inefficient" government is why the Alliance cruisers are shaped the way they are. They are massive ships that resemble several sky-scrapers on the same foundation, with engines thrusting them "horizontally"; in short, efficiency nightmares. Likewise, the resources that go into building one might lead to a ship that is overwhelmingly powerful, capable of launching and supporting dozens of smaller craft, but is so large and slow it cannot possibly effectively patrol the vast territory of The 'Verse without huge gaps.
  • In the Doctor Who story The Happiness Patrol, the oppressive society of Terra Alpha (where everyone is forced to be happy) is clearly falling apart even before the Doctor arrives to take the oppressive society down, but he acts as the necessary impetus to finally push it over the edge into chaos and open rebellion. One particularly beautiful example, however; a militia is set up to 'disappear' a group of protesters deliberately acting sad in protest over the laws, only to find when they get there that the Doctor has persuaded them to act happy, meaning that they are now obeying the law and can't be arrested or killed. And to add insult to injury, the first wave is so confused, glum and indecisive about what to do that when a second wave turns up to help, they end up ignoring the protesters and arresting the first wave for breaking the same laws they'd been intending to arrest the protesters over.
  • In Misfits time travel causes the Nazis to have won the war, and Shaun is the head of the Wertham precinct. He is still, however, Shaun.
  • The Goa'uld in Stargate SG-1 are as fascist and inefficient as you can get, which is why the heroes lasted as long as they did; for all their technology and power the snake heads were more interested in using it to bolster their ego and fight amongst themselves, the sole exceptions being Anubis and Baal. In this case it's because the fascism and inefficiency were inseparable, as the Goa'uld are Always Chaotic Evil and sought power purely for power's sake, and did things like randomly killing some of their cowering slaves or throwing away valuable troops in pointless slaughters not because it might accomplish something, but because being needlessly evil was the goal in itself.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Depending on the Game Master, Alpha Complex, the setting of Paranoia, can range from a well-oiled totalitarian machine to a dysfunctional cesspit of inefficiency, incompetence, and intrigue. The game manual also recommends that when dealing with very high-ranking antagonists, the GM should play them as fascist and efficient, and play their efficiency for as much horror value as the rampant inefficiency of the lower levels.
    • Or when dealing with very high-ranking protagonists. For instance, a PC's guards catch a "traitor" (the PC's secret society contact) and confiscate his "contraband" (which he was delivering to the PC).
  • Warhammer has the Skaven, a seemingly insignificant race of Chaotic Evil ratmen - insignificant only in their inability to cooperate when they're the most powerful and overwhelming force on the planet. The core of all Skaven is fear - they fear their enemies, they fear each other, they even worship their unloving and monstrous god by constantly fearing that he will materialize and start eating titanic handfuls of screaming rats because he was bored. Which he has done on occasion. As a result, their society is one unending Fascist state with every citizen enslaving at least one other Skaven and other Skaven enslaving them, all the way to the top, where the twelve big rats squabble and argue on a giant magnet about Skaven policies and how they can write the rules to serve their ends. Despite the sheer difference in both population and technology between the Skaven and every other race on the planet, Chaos included, the constant infighting, backstabbing, and enslaving means that the Skaven are incapable of dominating a single surface outpost without some (easily killed) chieftain rat to herd them like cattle, hence the reason why they are so obscure that the Empire has deemed them a heretical myth.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has His Divine Majesty's Imperium of Mankind, probably the most exaggerated in fiction. It's deliberately the most oppressive crapsack government imaginable, but all the different factions that run it (Administratum, Ecclesiarchy, Mechanicus, Imperial Guard, Imperial Navy, Astartes, Inquisition, and Arbites) distrust each other at best, regularly hoard information and resources, will often refuse to help another faction unless it can benefit them, and on occasion will outright go to war with each other; more than one Imperial endeavor has been dismantled solely because of infighting. And that's before considering all the sub-factions (and sub-sub-factions) and all the local departments that run individual planets/systems. Turns out that this is better than the alternative, as any time someone gains control of multiple departments at once they soon turn the Imperium's brutally up even further (Horus in the Horus Heresy and Goge Vandire in the Age of Apostasy). It doesn't help that the only one who could feasibly remove the "Inefficient" part is the Emperor of Mankind, and he's a barely alive husk trapped in failing life support.

  • Beast Wars: Uprising: The Cybertron of the 24th century is run by the Builders, who are so ludicrously energy-inefficient they've actually ground to a halt. Rather than do the sensible thing, like downsize or fund research into more energy efficient technologies, they spend their time enforcing idiotically strict laws on the Maximals and Predacons, or forcing them into lethal deathmatches out of sheer spite. By the time of the first story, this means pretty much all of Cybertron is a decaying husk, with most cities just standing wrecks.

    Video Games 
  • In Fable III, Logan ends up running his parents' kingdom to the ground in an attempt to prepare Albion against an Eldritch Abomination and generally kicking the dog in order to teach you, his younger sibling, to be equally prepared. However he keeps kicking the dog even when it does nothing but makes things worse, and when you usurp the throne it turns out that much like your parent before you, making obscene amounts of money without being a jerkass is just a case of investing and maintaining real estate.
  • In 4X games, the tyrannical style governments often gain military and related bonuses, but have poor economy bonuses, or economy penalties, to compensate.
    • In Civilization I and II, despotism has large losses to corruption and waste (Communism and Fundamentalism are aversions, though, having very low losses).
      • In Civilization V, being a military focused civ means not only is your economy going to suffer (building and maintaining and army is VERY expensive) but you also will most likely miss out on building Wonders (which give great bonuses to your civ; admittedly, conquering somebody else's Wonder can be just as good as building it yourself), and get penalties to your culture. Being a warmonger pretty much paints a target on your back, as the other civilizations in the game will turn hostile against you (effectively shutting down any trade negotiations you may have had with them).
    • In the Call To Power series, Tyranny is the starting government, and is extremely poor in almost all areas. Later in the game, Fascism and Communism supply good production and strong military support, but with weaker economies and can support fewer cities than Democracy, the other government at about the same position on the tech tree. (Technocracy is an aversion, however. This government is pretty much Nineteen Eighty-Four, but is a highly efficient government, although with slightly different bonuses to other late game ones.)
    • In Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, the Police State government has a penalty to efficiency as a disadvantage. Combined with a planned economy for a full totalitarian government, and your faction will probably crash and burn from almost all income being lost to inefficiency. Subverted if you're playing as Yang, who is immune to inefficiency and thus has no downsides to running exactly this sort of government.
    • Galactic Civilizations: the four main structures of government are an Imperial dictatorship and three different subsets of democracy. Imperial is massively less useful economically than the others, with the comparatively tiny benefit of not having to stage elections at semi-random intervals.
  • The Combine Overwatch in Half-Life 2 don't seem to really care about the rebels operating a secret lab just blocks away from a major train station, and getting spies into Civil Protection seems to be as easy as joining Civil Protection, but once Gordon returns they waste no time going from oppressive to offensive, mobilising a massive manhunt to hunt Gordon down, and launching a huge raid on the entire canal system to clear out the rebel activity. When it's clear that Gordon is headed out of town, they begin mobilising the overwatch military to begin attacking outland settlements as well. Somehow, they never do find that lab, even though it does take battle damage and is abandoned in favor of a safer forest base around 2 weeks after the revolution begins.
  • The Templars of Assassin's Creed tend to function as such. Due to their belief in keeping the populace weak as part of their interpretation of Order, whenever they tend to control territories they tend to run it to the ground as seen in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. The Renaissance is considered a "Dark Age" of sorts for Templars as members were out solely for personal gain rather than forwarding their goals, but the modern-day or Altair-era Templars don't seem much better. Sure, they're not openly stabbing each other in the back in the name of personal power, but despite apparently having been in a position of control over just about everything except the minds of the populace itself hence the need for the Apple, the Assassins still exist and still manage to repeatedly yank the rug out from under the Templars.
  • Borderlands 2 has the city of Opportunity, built by Handsome Jack as his vision of utopia. In reality, it's a fascist dictatorship that's more or less a glorified monument to himself. It has elements of Bread and Circuses (people are paid to live there and gain a sizeable tax refund for listening to Blatant Lies about how he unlocked the Vault of the first game) as well as having death penalties for crimes such as littering and "verbal littering" (criticizing any of Opportunity's laws). It also doesn't help the fact that since it's located in the middle of Pandora, no sane person would want to move their family there in the first place. When the latter is pointed out to him by an employee, Jack has said employee's kids killed.
  • StarCraft:
    • Both Terran Governments we get to see are portrayed as fascist, dictatorial, and extremely ineffective; at the beginning of the game, the Confederation is clearly hated by almost everybody due to their policy of nuking rebellious planets, and it's quite clear the regime was already dying before Arcturus raised a rebel army of his own that destroyed it. Afterwards, his Terran Dominion seems slightly more effective, but just as oppressive, and ends up rather easily destroyed by the UED. While he manages to rebuild it between the end of Brood War and StarCraft II, it's implied the only reason he lasted so long was because Kerrigan didn't consider him worth killing. The very moment she decides to go on the warpath against him again, his Dominion is crushed, and the drastic measures he attempts to save it only end up making things worse.
      • Mengsk also has one of the traits of Real Life fascist militaries down, his lust for enormous ego-stroking superweapons. At the height of the zerg invasion on the Dominion, he spends an enormous amount of resources to produce the Odin, a mammoth walking tank packed with every armament imaginable, up to and including nukes. Raynor's men steal it, and after having some fun with it, declare it useless as a practical weapon and discard it.
    • The Protoss Conclave is shown to be utterly incompetent in defending Aiur against the Zerg invasion due to their insistence of relying on traditional protoss tactics (which aren't at all effective against a Zerg Rush) and constant refusal to accept help from the Dark Templar for ideological reasons, even though the Dark Templars possess exactly what is needed to defeat the Zerg. They also refuse Terran help, again for "ideological" reasons. Unsurprisingly, they are the first to get exterminated by the time of Brood War.
    • Defied by Kerrigan, of all people, in Heart of the Swarm, where she decides, despite Abathur's recommendations, to grant her Broodmothers more free will and individuality, as she feels the Swarm would be more effective if they are capable of thinking by themselves and taking initiative rather than being just mindless slaves.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: Even at the finest eras of the Sith Empire, the infrastructure is crumbling or nonexistent, and everyone from two bit officials to the Sith theocracy is too busy backstabbing each other or fearing their underling's constant attempts at invoking Klingon Promotion to accomplish anything. Add an untenable reliance on slave labor and a boatload of Fantastic Racism against every non-human (or non-Sith) species, in a galaxy with over twenty million sentient species. In the later storylines Darth Marr takes acts to try and fix this, enacting pro-alien policies as well as trying to curb some of the Empire's worse habits (particularly the rampant backstabbing/politicking).
  • Played With by Caesar's Legion in Fallout: New Vegas. It's noted by several characters, including the Player Character in the endgame, that the Legion's economy is sustained primarily by pillaging others and won't last long against the NCR, who have a trade and industry-based economy and will hands down win a war of attrition. It's also commonly noted that the Legion will fall into infighting once Caesar dies and/or they run out of enemies to fight. But on the other hand, it is Caesar's full intention to take over New Vegas and turn the Legion into a self-sustaining empire - he personally compares his nomadic horde more to the Gauls. The Legion is also far more able to keep the peace and protect their subjects than the NCR.
    • The Brotherhood Of Steel are falling into this over time. Hoarding technology, killing mutants and banning outsiders from their ranks worked when civilization was just a few scattered towns, but it's become troublesome in the recent games. The West Coast chapter featured in New Vegas has been reduced from a vast army to one bunker in the Mojave desert after tangling with House, the NCR, the Legion and a ton of smaller tribes. Zigzagged by the East Coast chapter; they became a lot more egalitarian and made leaps and bounds in tech, but retained those advancements after they were brought back into the fold.
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order: In this alternate timeline, Nazis discover a cache of Lost Technology, reverse-engineer what they can, and use it to take over the world. What follows is a deconstruction of the Fascist Singularity: the technology is so advanced that any attempt to apply it for non-military use is shot down because pacifist renovations don't hold up well against a robot army led by an ambitious rival or a paranoid superior. The overall strength of the Nazis is unparalleled but they're constantly backstabbing and infighting offscreen, or otherwise being boggled down by incompetent or apathetic leaders to do anything but strengthen their military assets. End result? The Nazis are using 23rd-century offensive, defensive, and enslavement technology in 1960, but the common people are stuck with 1950's tech, forced to bear the machinations of the genocidal Nazis without any technological advances or social relief, and are collectively VERY pissed off.

    Western Animation 
  • The Boondocks: The court system seems to spend most of its time interrogating innocent people then failing to protect them on the rare occasion they admit to knowing something, and then losing the case due to jury nullification. This is the justification Huey offers for why the Black community seems to have an irrational aversion to snitching, though he doesn't seem to endorse the practice himself.
  • The Dai Li, the de facto government of Ba Sing Se in Avatar: The Last Airbender, was a group that was more interested in keeping the city peaceful by forbidding all discussion of the war and isolating the continuous flow of refugees than actually organizing much in the way of actual coordinated strategy or doing anything to improve the lot of the refugees. The conspiracy was so inefficient that their actions guaranteed the eventual defeat of the Earth Kingdom, leaving Ba Sing Se nearly defenseless against Fire Nation siege engines (at a time when the Fire Nation proves it is not in Medieval Stasis) and the entire rest of the Kingdom is falling around them. Taken to something of its logical conclusion when Azula (the princess of an actually efficient Fascist government) manages to bring the Dai Li under her control, seizing power over the city and effectively conquering the Earth Kingdom.
    • The Earth Kingdom stays completely incompetent in The Legend of Korra, where the secret airbender conscript training goes so far as to discourage teamwork and protecting your allies, apparently because Earth Kingdom culture reveres blundering idiocy or something. Again, taken to its' logical conclusion when the entire Kingdom falls apart in spectacular fashion once the Earth Queen is assassinated and the walls separating the dirt-poor Lower Ring from the decadent and obscenely wealthy Upper and Middle Rings are brought down. And like in the previous series, the next regime was a fascist dictatorship that was NOT run by morons.
  • TaleSpin has the country of Thembria, where everything is accompanied by mountains of forms and paperwork, so a simple request of decision can take months to put into practice. The sole exception seems to be execution orders, which are rushed through in a few hours. The armament industry was so inefficient (or tied up in red tape) that the Thembrian Air Force never had any bullets and would resort to throwing whatever they DID have at enemy planes, including furniture, ship anchors and cuts of bologna.
  • The Donald Duck War Time Cartoon Der Fuehrer's Face took Nazism to an absurd extreme, including its inefficiency. This means Donald has only a single coffee bean (that he had hidden), a block of wood (or possibly a loaf of bread so hard it needed to be cut with a saw), and a spray bottle of bacon flavoring to eat. Donald's work flow is constantly interrupted by photos of Hitler (which must all be heiled to individually or a dozen guards would threaten to shoot Donald) also placed on the assembly line. Many shells went past Donald unscrewed as he just couldn't keep up with the constantly changing size of the shells, the speed of the conveyor belt, or the random photographs he has to heil instead of doing his actual job.
  • Invader Zim has this Played for Laughs with the Irkens and the humans. Both societies are cruel, totalitarian, and run by incompetent egotists who react to any objections with brainwashing or death, despite having absolutely no idea what they're doing themselves.
  • The Gem Homeworld from Steven Universe operates on a Fantastic Caste System where one's role and position depends on one's gem-type, with the Diamonds acting as the highest of authorities. The Diamonds each have complete unchecked power over their Empire and are willing to enact harsh punishments at the slightest provocation, including instant death. Because of this, certain forms of efficiency are sacrificed in order for some gems to escape the Diamond's wrath, such as Holly Blue Agate not telling Blue Diamond that the Crystal Gems infiltrated the Human Zoo under her nose. They also have a taboo against fusion, fusions between the same gem-types only allowed during combat situations and inter-gem fusions like Garnet and Rhodonite considered criminal punishable by shattering, even though Garnet only first manifested by accident when Ruby save Sapphire, the very thing Ruby was assigned to do.