Fascism: a model of brutal efficiency. Sure, the loss of freedom sucks, but the trains run on time, poverty, corruption, and crime have been eliminated, and the armies march like clockwork. Just keep your head down, do your job, ignore the occasional sound of dissidents being dragged from their homes in the dead of night, and things will be pretty okay.
This trope is when fascism or some other authoritarian, draconian, and/or brutal system of government is shown to be more efficient and competent than other more representative or liberal systems and relatively unaffected by problems of logistics, corruption, crime, poverty, etc. for this reason. In extreme examples, such a regime can be portrayed as darn near a utopia, if it weren't for that pesky lack of freedom and/or death penalty for jaywalking.
In some cases, the general populace may actually want the dictatorship if the alternative is somehow worse. The king may tax his subjects heavily, and he doesn't take kindly to his decisions being questioned...but on the other hand he's also brutally efficient in dealing with the bandits and orcs who would otherwise rob and kill you, and you actually have some chance of living peacefully without ending up on an ogre's dinner menu. When you live in a Crapsack World, you often have to make a Morton's Fork choice.
In Real Life, this is averted at least as often as played straight. Authoritarianism is notoriously plagued by corruption, and even when dictatorships work relatively well, those that are based around a Cult of Personality tend to crumble on their leader's death. It's noteworthy that in Nazi Germany itself, the trains were in fact notoriously unreliable... not least because the Nazis promoted the use of automobiles and invested in the autobahns at the expense of trains and the railways even though Germany produced neither rubber nor oil and was one of the world's leading producers of steel and coal (on the grounds that automobiles were 'more advanced' and 'more modern' than trains). Consequently they actually had fewer trains in 1939 than they had in 1914, and ran out of (unused) tires in mid-July 1941 after the second week of their campaign against the USSR. And, contrary to popular belief, Mussolini did not make the trains run on time, his regime actually being the polar opposite. Remember also, that fascism came to power in countries which were already developed and that a good deal of its vaunted "efficiency" is blurred by the pre-takeover infrastructure continuing afterwards.
A subtrope of No Delays for the Wicked, which is when villains (individuals as well as groups) have an easier time dealing with logistics because of Rule of Drama, whether there's an in-story explanation or not. Compare and contrast The Extremist Was Right, which deals with a single character as opposed to a system of government. In settings where fascism is not only more efficient than more liberal forms of government, but more liberal forms of government prove fundamentally unworkable, it's because Hobbes Was Right and Democracy Is Bad.
- Dragon Ball: Yes, Frieza is a ruthless, power-hungry, tyrannical Galactic Conqueror, but his method of ruling through fear and intimidation was what held his empire together and kept things running. In fact, this is the entire reason Sorbet opted to resurrect him during Resurrection 'F', because the empire was on the brink of collapse without Frieza to keep things in check.
- It's mentioned a couple times in Death Note that Kira (a supernatural serial killer who kills criminals in order to try to create a better world) succeeds in dramatically reducing crime rates. An interesting example considering that it's only his method of killing that is supernatural; he relies on news reports to identify criminals, meaning that he kills mostly those that have already been apprehended by police. So it is ONLY the rampant use of the death penalty as a deterrent that achieves this effect, not any increase in efficiency of actually catching criminals. (Note that studies have shown that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent in Real Life; though, granted, what Kira does is not capital punishment but outright summary spree murder.) Its noted that when he dies, the crime rate slowly starts to return to normal; still, better than being murdered for laziness, which is where his disciple Teru Mikami ultimately wanted to take things.
- In Legend of Galactic Heroes, Yang (the go-to man for supporting democracy) says that while dictatorships are not inherently more efficient, they have the capability to do so if the leader decides to simply cut through the red tape with a razor.
- In Berserk, series Big Bad Griffith creates a veritable utopia on Earth with Falconia. The amount of bureaucracy necessary to manage a constant influx of refugees is staggering, but it's all managed effortlessly. Everyone has perfect safety, plenty to eat, a roof over their heads, free medical care, and fulfilling work suited to their talents. While most of the inhabitants are in some degree of mourning from losing loved ones in the recent wars, the fact that those loved ones' spirits can give them an in-person goodbye before moving on to the afterlife takes a lot of the edge off. Being a Reality Warper literally empowered by God really helps when running a country. Unfortunately, it's all based around a Cult of Personality dedicated to someone who in the past hasn't hesitated to betray those closest to him and even subject one of his most devoted supporters to a horrifying rape in order to perpetuate his own power. There's also the fact that the city was founded thanks to the efforts of a horde of demons, each of whom perpetrated some horrible betrayal in exchange for power, and whose bloodlust is only barely held in check. It may well be one of the most benevolent dictatorships in the history of fiction, but make no mistake that it is a dictatorship, and those who defy Griffith are sentenced to death, as Rickert finds out.
- Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog: In the altered version of the Mobius: X Years Later timeline, Shadow marries Sally and takes over the kingdom. It's noted that while Shadow's regime was brutal, it still brought peace and stability to all of Mobius.
Knuckles: Things may have been bad under King Shadow, but at least he knew how to keep the warmongers in line.
- The small Balkan nation of Latveria may be ruled by the iron fist of Doctor Doom, but it IS prosperous. There is no crime, no poverty, no disease, and some stories imply nobody even needs to work (for anyone other than Doom, of course) as Doom has robot servants do everything. Latveria also tends to go to hell anytime Doom is removed from power, and the Fantastic Four have even helped him return to his throne- even if they helped remove him in the first place- because they agree that he is a better ruler than his replacements.
- Genosha in the XMen comics was originally a country where mutants were rounded up and enslaved, then the X-Men helped overthrow that government, and then much later Magneto took over. While mutants were slaves the country was prosperous; once they were liberated, the economy collapsed.
- The Justice Department in the Judge Dredd stories in 2000 AD is a fascist government and, although usually benign, during the Insane Judge Cal series it became an out-of-control efficient fascist dictatorship. This efficiency helped speed the dictator's downfall because mail, containing evidence of his illegal manipulation, was delivered much faster than usual.
- In Superman: Red Son the Man of Steel was raised in the Soviet Union rather than the Midwestern United States and thus grew up to be the ultimate enforcer and eventually supreme leader of the most successful People's Republic of Tyranny the world had never seen. At its height America and a handful of other nations were the only countries not enjoying a repressive but otherwise utopian socialist paradise, policed almost entirely by Superman himself, who has virtually eradicated crime, poverty and social injustice at the high price of freedom. When Lex Luthor finally defeats him and takes over the world for himself, he decides to model his- vastly even more successful- New World Order on the very one he just overthrew, save for a bit less equality and a bit more meritocratic elitism; his beef with Superman was never about capitalism or liberty or anything Luthor claimed to be fighting for- it was, as it always is, simply Luthor wanting to beat Superman at his own game for the sake of Luthor's own ego. It is also open to interpretation that Superman let Luthor win because he realized that Luthor would be a better ruler than he was, so long as he believed that he had finally defeated Superman.
- Fallout: Equestria: Red Eye's empire is a brutal slave state perpetuating some of the worst parts of the Wasteland, but it is working. Red Eye has industry, a real army, and children are safe under his care. He even has an actual plan that is one of the Wasteland's best chances for the future. Littlepip, despite being horrified by everything he does, admits that from a coldly pragmatic point of view, she should side with him. She decides against it because what's good for the Wasteland isn't good for Equestria. The world can never truly improve if he treats them as children who need to be forced into obedience.
Littlepip: We've done what we can... and now it's time for Daddy Red Eye and Mommy Littlepip to get the fuck out of their way.
- Played with in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Big Brother is not so good about things like ensuring a decent quality of life for all the little brothers and sisters in his care, but he's AMAZING when it comes to things like keeping the monitoring system up and running, identifying and rooting out possible dissidents, and just generally averting Evil Will Fail. Of course, he doesn't actually care about the first one... O'Brien, one of the state's torturers, explicitly states the goal of the regime is simply oppression.
- In Animal Farm, the titular farm (an obvious allegory for oppressive communist regimes) is said to be the most efficient farm at exploiting, subduing and disciplining animals... by Mr. Pinkerton, whose sincerity is dubious.
- Civilization in Brave New World is a strictly regimented society where everything about a person is planned out before they're even a fertilized test tube. Everyone is conditioned to accept their place in life, and people are kept in line by a government-produced drug called Soma. Any free thought is severely frowned upon, and even the most dull and unimaginative person from our time would hate living there, but everyone has a high standard of living, the citizens are insanely happy, and there's no crime. Occasionally someone's conditioning will fail and they'll be a free thinker and unhappy with their lot, but those people aren't punished, imprisoned, or executed, just given the choice between joining the ruling class or going into voluntary exile in an island community of like-minded people, which is relatively humane by dystopian standards. The society is juxtaposed with that of the "savages," who are people who live in a tribal society with standards of living that are terrible by comparison.
- In The City in the Middle of the Night the citizens of Xiosphant have tightly regimented schedules, where sleeping, waking, eating, everything takes place at specified times. Justified in that, after living on a Tidally Locked Planet where it is always twilight in the city, this seems to be the best way the human colonists have figured out how to live without going insane. However, when having a habit of sleeping at the "wrong" times is punished by death?! Yeah, it's pretty extreme.
- In Discworld, the capital city of Ankh-Morpork is ruled by one Lord Vetinari, Tyrant. While there are MANY rival factions who would wish to take over, no one does because under Vetinari, everything works. Perfectly. When a rival ruler pops up, Vetinari usually just locks himself in the dungeon, until everyone realizes that it was so much better under him and he gets reinstated. Vetinari's authoritarian rule is explicitly contrasted against the fledgling democracy of neighboring city-state Pseudopolis (which has recently voted not to have to pay taxes). The main reason this works is that he mostly just persuades the various factions to work together instead of trying to do everything top-down, only rarely directly invoking his authority (and it's a recurring plot point that pretty much nobody in Ankh-Morpork pays taxes either).
- At the start of N. K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy, the Arameri empire of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms fancies itself this, as their patron is the god of order. The Arameri keep the other gods metaphysically chained and use them (and the gods' language) as weapons to enforce their will, but also to provide magical tools like long-range communicators (in other words, phones) to help their underlings manage the whole world... while still keeping the "phone" lines tapped in case someone needs to be disappeared for sedition.
- In The Reckoners Trilogy Steelheart's city of Newcago is one of the most stable and safest places left in the world due to the efforts of its despotic ruler. It is still a place where you can be randomly murdered by an Epic for no reason and it's considered their right, where the sun never shines, and where much of the populace lives in a labyrinth of steel tunnels, but it has food, electricity, and some measure of law enforcement. Efficiency is relative. The Professor argues for assassinating Steelheart in spite of this specifically because by the standards of the world that came before Newcago is still a hellhole, and if it starts to be viewed as normal or even good, there's no hope for improvement.
Prof: Everyone talks about how great Newcago is. But it's not great; it's good by comparison only! Yes, there are worse places, but so long as this hellhole is considered the ideal, we'll never get anywhere. We cannot let them convince us this is normal!
- Randall Flagg's regime in Stephen King's The Stand is like this, to the point where the characters even say "the trains run on time" word-for-word. While the more-or-less democratic Boulder Free Zone is struggling to get the power turned on and handle basic sanitation, Las Vegas under Flagg has public education, an organized system for caring for the many underage orphans of the plague, and a modern military. Plus public executions and crucifixions! He does eventually fall victim to Evil Will Fail in the end, but much of that is due to his inhuman nature reasserting itself and the accompanying mental deterioration.
- Zig-zagged in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. On the one hand, the Old Republic was a very long-lived, stable and prosperous democratic society, while various Sith Empires crumbled relatively quickly. On the other hand, post-Revenge of the Sith, everything becomes the other way round: various attempts to restore democracy result in a total mess again and again. The post-Palpatine Empire goes through a long period of decline and internal squabbling, but ultimately emerges, loses its villain status, and is shown as the more stable and responsible galactic state.
- Nilfgaard from the Witcher cycle is a textbook example. It's an expansive empire built around the personality cult of the Emperor, where hanging is what the criminals can hope for if they cooperate, and any dissent is treason. Oh, and the military wear all black. It also outcompetes the Nordlings in trade, production, and currency, has a powerful army based on meritocratic principles and quite modern military theory, and generally has better race relations. The Northern Kingdoms generally are a feudal mess occasionally ruled by a skilled king, with the exception of Kovir and Poviss, which declare neutrality and distance themselves from the rest as much as they can.
- In the nightmarish, post-apocalyptic America of Victoria, the most dangerous challenge to the titular successor republic comes from Leader von Braun's Nazi-imitating faction in the Great Lakes region. The protagonists note that unlike the various other ravaging bands, hordes and would-be tyrants, but like themselves, his Party of the Will is building a real, functional state, and they are, for the most part, ruthlessly efficient and competent about it.
- The Wheel of Time: The Seanchan Empire is an authoritarian regime with a brutally enforced caste system, a ghastly institution of slavery and Dehumanization, and an infamous State Sec, but its (non-enslaved) citizens are otherwise secure and well provided for. Many commoners in its invaded territories are glad for the relative peace and stability, compared to the previous generations of squabbling noble houses.
- Our Miss Brooks: Miss Brooks is justified in calling Mr. Conklin "dictator" of Madison High School. However, for the most part, the school seems to operate well nonetheless.
- Star Trek:
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Patterns of Force," a lawless planet adopts Nazism as its hat with the justification that it was "the most efficient state the Earth ever knew." Their version of Nazism is treated in-universe as just as flawlessly efficient.
- In "The Trouble With Tribbles", in which the Federation and the Klingon Empire are competing for the right to settle a planet, Kirk concedes that whatever else the Klingons are, they are ruthlessly efficient.
- In the early Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Justice," the Enterprise crew encounters a Planet of the Week with this as its hat. The place initially seems to be a Crystal Spires and Togas utopia of peace, plenty, and easy sex, until it turns out that the penalty for crimes as minor as stepping on the grass is death. Picard even credits their near-utopia to their draconian system of punishment in his Patrick Stewart Speech before going on to conclude that it's not worth it.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Odo often says that dealing with criminals was much easier when the station was commanded by oppressive Cardassians during the Occupation of Bajor. The Federation treats prisoners more ethically.
- In a Farscape episode where Crichton visits Earth in an alternate timeline, his father talks about how all disease and environmental problems on the planet had been eradicated under Scarran rule, albeit with a lot of personal freedoms being sacrificed.
- Person of Interest. In order to demonstrate to the Machine that Utopia Justifies the Means, Samaritan drastically reduces the crime rate in New York and makes all the subway trains run on time for 24 hours. Having made its point, Samaritan then proceeds to show what happens when a machine god gets pissed off.
- Played with in Warhammer 40,000. While the Imperium's ruling body is often quite inefficient, it's unclear whether an empire spanning half the galaxy could be any more efficient under a less brutal and oppressive regime. What is clear is that whenever anyone tries to revert to a more benign, fair, and all around humane form of government on even a single planet, the resulting lenience allows either Chaos or Genestealer cults to spread unchecked across entire solar systems. So while the Imperium may be somewhat inefficient when it comes to logistics—arguably more due to its sheer size than its system of government—it is brutally efficient when it comes to squashing the cults that threaten its existence.
- Examples of the Interex, Craftworld Eldar, and Exodite Eldar show that it might not be such a necessity. Imperium's tendency to choose the most grimdark solution for every problem bitten them on more than one occasion. Also, Codex explicitly states that the only faction susceptible to large scale Genestealer infestations is Imperium.
- There are several examples in Exalted.
- Most notably is the Realm, where you may be constantly under the heel of a ruling class of decadent Super Soldiers but everyone is guaranteed enough to eat, foreign aggression is a non-issue, crime and supernatural incursions are swiftly dealt with, and even the weather behaves itself because the small gods knows that the Immaculate Order will show up to kick their asses otherwise.
- The Eight Nations of Autochtonia are all about this, since they worship (and inhabit the body of) a deity who is among other things the god of doctrine. Every facet of life, from work to recreation to family, is strictly monitored and regimented, and anyone who becomes permanently incapable of meeting production quotas through age or infirmity is euthanathised. However, the Autochtonians manage to avoid being Lawful Stupid by treating their legal and religious codes as a work in progress that must be allowed to be questioned so that they can be further improved, and by acknowledging that human beings must be granted at least a few liberties and allowances since unhappy workers are less productive than moderately content ones.
- While Paranoia usually tilts toward Fascist, but Inefficient, it suggests switching to this trope at higher clearances, especially with high-clearance 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).
- In BattleTech, the Clans like to portray their society, which is a caste system with an planned economy where everything is run by and in support of the Warrior Caste as being the epitome of efficiency. In reality it's an absurdly wasteful system that foolishly wastes resources and lives due to insisting on The Spartan Way as the only way to do things. For more than 100 years prior to their invasion of the Inner Sphere, the Clans had been economically and technologically stagnant.
- Urinetown: Resident Corrupt Corporate Executive Caldwell B. Cladwell rations the dwindling water supply so tightly that private toilets are banned, public toilets are taxed, and public urination is illegal, and punishable by death. However, his draconian policies do keep the water running, and at the end, when the angry masses depose him and his more benevolent daughter abolishes the taxes, the river quickly dries up and the city is left without water—as Officer Lockstock helpfully points out to the audience.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, Mr. House's rule of the Las Vegas Strip is the closest thing the Mojave has to utopia: clean and orderly streets overseen by an incorruptible robot police force, universal access to food, clean water, and electricity, and full employment. Only thing is, the entire city belongs to Mr. House outright, and he finds democracy to be a patently ridiculous form of government. (In the ending where the PC sides with him, House hangs a lampshade on this trope, noting that his first order of business after taking over the whole Mojave will be to make the Camp McCarren monorail run on time). However, he's slightly more benevolent than other examples in that he has no intention of actively oppressing his citizens unless they prove to be a threat to his power and is otherwise content to let them enjoy what Vegas has to offer... for the right price.
- Caesar's Legion is the game's main "evil" faction, and they certainly are quite evil. They do all kinds of terrible things such as rape, slavery, banning alcohol, you name it. However, even their strongest detractors will grudgingly admit that Legion-aligned merchant caravans are the safest out there, with zero danger of ever getting robbed, because nobody wants to make the Legion mad at them. One of your companions, Raul, also spent some time living in Arizona before the Legion conquered it. According to him, the Legion might be a bunch of tyrants, but they were a massive step up from "lawless, Raider-infested hellhole". For this reason he's practically the only companion that isn't vehemently anti-Legion. It's still a rather odd position for him to take, given that he's a ghoul, and the Legion is virulently anti-ghoul and super mutant. It's also averted in the game's endings where Caesar either didn't have his brain tumor removed leading to his post-game death or was killed by the Courier during the game, as without him to lead the Legion it quickly fragments into anarchy.
- In Crusader Kings, this is what independent leaders have to be and everyone else hopes they're not. If your neighbors don't devour you the moment they spot a point of weakness, your vassals will place a knife in your back instead. To simply ensure your dynasty's continued existence and your realm's survival (in that order of priority!), you must ruthlessly crush every threat to your dominion that crops up.
- In Stellaris, Authoritarian ethos reduces food consumption and increases slavery tolerance. It also unlocks autocratic goverment types, of which Despotic Hegemony is probably the trope's epitome.
- Not quite a government, but in Stardew Valley, there's no denying that the game's Walmart Expy gets things done. JojaMart is open 14 hours a day, every day, and their community development program is significantly faster, smoother and easier than restoring the community yourself with the help of the local nature spirits. You do however miss out on a number of bundle rewards by taking this path though, and between their Predatory Business tendencies and the game's pro-environment, anti-capitalist message, it's definitely not the morally superior option either.
- The Human Hive in Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri is a downplayed example: They're not any more efficient than the other factions, but they are immune to negative efficiency from its government civics and can run governments (police state + planned economy) that would be economic suicide to everyone else. This is justified in-game by the Human Hive being a collectivist cult whose faction leader is a true believer in Heroic Willpower and The Evils of Free Will who is 'helping' humanity transcend its base nature — corrupt elements of the society who are in it to benefit themselves are presumably purged or re-educated without afterthought.
- Injustice: Gods Among Us and Injustice 2: Ethical quandaries and collateral damage aside, Superman's Regime put a stop to crime and corruption, brought an end to war all over the world and massively improved humanity's carbon footprint via advances in green energy, among other benefits. Pre-battle intros and especially the prequel comics show that with post-Regime Earth suffering a difficult political climate, the return of several problems without Superman and his allies to keep them in check, Batman's own attempts to improve the world sometimes proving ineffectual, and portions of the world's populace still supporting the Regime and hoping for their return. The tie-in comics for Injustice 2 even lampshade this; a U.S. senator gives Batman a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, stating that while Superman may have been a tyrant, at least his methods actually worked.
- In Season 2 of Freeman's Mind, Gordon concludes that City 17 is part of a fascist state because, among among other things, the trains run on time to the point they don't even brake if someone's on the rails or gets run over.
- In Farce of the Three Kingdoms, Wei under the Cao regime isn't such a bad place for the commoners (at least, until Cao Rui goes on a building spree). Cao Cao is careful not to make the commoners suffer too much, most of the time, and the state he leaves behind is quite stable for two generations. On the other hand, Shu devolves into a straight Dystopia, as Zhuge Liang and later Jiang Wei drain all its resources for their (staggeringly incompetent) war machine.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Fire Nation's monarchs, since Sozin until Ozai, are known as ruthless, tyrannical world conquerors, but even their adversaries admit that they're very efficient and competent rulers within their nation frontiers.
- In contrast to the cripplingly inefficient Earth Queen and her Dai Li, Kuvira and the Earth Empire in The Legend of Korra are portrayed as much more effective in winning over the people and establishing order. She and her organization single-handedly made peace between all of the Earth Kingdom territories after the anarchy brought on by the Earth Queen's death and then quickly establishes herself as its new monarch, gathering nay-sayers and citizens of non-Earth Kingdom descent into re-education camps and developed spirit-energy-based super weapons operated on metalbending with intentions on taking back Republic City. Because of her intelligence and skill, Kuvira and the Earth Empire are arguably the largest threat in the entire series.
- Justice League probably gets as close to this as possible for a kid cartoon with the Justice Lords, a Knight Templar Alternate Universe equivalent to the titular League, who revoked their Thou Shalt Not Kill dogma, removed free speech, united all world governments under their rule and lobotomized all their supervillains (and, reading between the lines, possibly a few rebellious superheroes as well). End result:
- Their world is bright and clean and has no crime or war, and the Justice Lords keep constant surveillance over the world to the degree that even natural disasters cause minimal casualties, which even has a result of boring the Lords out of their mind for lacking problems to solve (which is pretty much what leads to the creation of the door). Compared to the League's world, with the constant murder and terrorism, superhuman experiments, corruption, and threats such as an evil godlike alien who rules an entire planet, a godlike robot who has the power to destroy an entire planet, hundreds of dangerous villains ranging from evil geniuses to superpowered thugs (all of this continuing for decades up to Batman Beyond), the League's Earth going through three different alien invasions and an unspecified "Near-Apocalypse", the Lords's world would seem safer to many, if not ideal.
- On the other hand, people can be arrested for such things as complaining too loudly about their meal at a restaurant, free elections are suspended as a "temporary measure", and student protesters flee from the sight of Hawkgirl and Green Lantern. Lois Lane describes free speech as "all but dead" as a result of the Lords' actions.
- The end result is the victory of the "traditional" heroes when the Justice Lords attempt to clean up the League's Earth (out of what appears to be nothing more than the goodness of their hearts) and the message that "sometimes Utopia Doesn't Justify The Means", but the writers professed the occasional trouble at giving the League the obvious moral high ground.