We could realistically just do whatever we wanted if there were no consequences as long as we were all personally popular.
As far as I can tell, this has been true of Atlasia throughout its entire history even with a Game Moderator
Then the question becomes why do we bother worrying about what a bill costs or where you get money from or any of that stuff? Why do we bother being concerned about what the economy is doing or really doing anything different at all since all we seem to do is react to events that happen in real life. So if what we do changes nothing, why do we simulate anything past the elections themselves?
Atlasia is an elections simulator. The governing structures obscure this, but there is no government simulation. Yes, legislation is debated and voted on, but then what? It is entered into the wiki, its content filters back into the political narrative of the time, but ultimately it is forgotten. It doesn't matter how dedicated the GM is, how much they write about 'the economy' or 'foreign affairs.' The GM cannot hold players accountable for their actions in government. The GM can always be ignored, and no amount of legislation will fix that. Because Atlas is an elections simulator, the only thing which matters is the campaigns. At the end of the day, players will vote based on their relationships with other players (friendships, yes, but also perceptions of dedication (e.g. activity) and political expediency).
As it stands, it doesn't matter how much a bill costs or where the money comes from. There is no money. There are only forum posts. Yet people go through great lengths to pretend that is not the case. For example, I spent much of 2011 tracking through the entire legislative history of the IDS and cross-referencing those bills to actually existing state budgets to create a budget for that region. I served as speaker for long enough that after each fiscal bill, the budget was updated. PiT and I made sure that Imperial spending stayed within the confines of what we considered to be "realistic." But at some point (perhaps after I left, it's been years so my memory is fuzzy) the budget stopped being updated. And it didn't matter. Because the budget was ancillary to the functionality of the game. The budget's primary function was always political. I took on the budget project when I was new to the game, in order to gain some credibility as a "serious" member of the legislature. That credibility allowed me to become Speaker and from there shape the narrative of the IDS (and in a small part, Atlasia) for about a year and a half.
Note how the GM does not make an appearance in the above story. The GM at the time was...Badger? I don't really remember. But whoever it was had their hands full trying to figure out the effects of some complex healthcare reform bill (reform from what? your guess is as good as mine). And I think they might have been studying to pass the bar exam, or something. Anyway, they had their hands full. The players were able to crunch the numbers on their own. However, there was never any simulation
. We never heard about what effects our budget was having on the Imperial "economy" or whatever. The GM can't be everywhere. And even if the GM had been superhuman, it wouldn't have mattered. I remember when I served as SoIA and then GM I kept employment numbers for the regions which were tied directly to my perception of legislative "activity" in those regions. Nobody cared. I don't think anybody read my "office" thread.
The cold, hard truth is none of us want to play a government simulator. Sure, there are plenty of people who vocally wish the GM was more relevant, but no one is willing to empower him to that extent. Because doing so would require fundamentally altering the mechanics of this game. It would require introducing new ways to hold government actors accountable which supersedes the electoral system. For example, doing away with player-voter elections altogether in favor of GM-simulated elections which reward good governance and punish bad governance. That game might be fun if done correctly, but would likely need an actual programmed game engine to work. The alternative is to get rid of all aspects of government simulation altogether. To not worry about tracking the effects of past legislation, or even keeping tabs on past legislation. Rather, acknowledging all bills as what they really are, showpieces which allow elected officials to act out political debates for the benefit of their constituencies.
The current situation is exhausting and somewhat damaging. The game moderation staff are set up to fail. They can either bang their heads against a wall for the duration of their term or throw their hands up and be inactive. I spent a good portion of my GM term inactive due to not having a computer, but frankly, I was glad I had that excuse. And then as I sketched above, those players who do engage in the pageantry of drafting thorough budgets and complex laws gain significant political advantage not because of the content of their proposals, but rather because of the veneer of "seriousness" attached to their efforts. Because these are time-intensive endeavors, the system (perhaps I should say "the culture") gives an advantage to those who have an incredible amount of free time.
It is my position that eliminating the entire Game Moderation staff (that is, all members of the cabinet which engage in any sort of simulation regarding the economy, 'foreign affairs,' 'domestic affairs,' etc.) will rejuvenate the game. An Atlasia which does not try to mirror an actually existing nation but which focuses on the true meat of the game, the relationships between players and the electoral system, will be much healthier.