A Bolder Balder
An interview with John Spencer-Talleyrand, Statsminister
Written by SkyGreen24
John Spencer-Talleyrand is the Statsminister of Balder, having served in that position since 9 November 2020. With NationStates on the precipice of significant change, we grasped this opportunity to interview JST to learn more about him, Balder, and his thoughts for the future.
SkyGreen24: So, as our readers might be aware already, you are also a Europeian citizen. Could you tell us a bit more about your Europeian career? Additionally, is there any experience you received in Europeia which helped you in Balder that you'd like to highlight?
John Spencer-Talleyrand: First off, thank you for having me for this interview, it’s a pleasure.
My Europeian career isn’t extensive; with my service being limited to the civil service and the Europeian Republican Navy. I don’t know the exact reason but I never really decided to join Europeian politics. Perhaps my responsibilities in my other regions kept me from emerging deeper but the end result is that I never did. I did try to become active in the civil service though (as a stepping stone to eventually becoming active in politics), where I applied to the ministries of Justice, Communications, and Foreign Affairs, and the ERN. Anyhow, currently I am on the FA watch and the ERN; so I am primarily active in Europeia in these two capacities.
If I am going to be completely honest, not particularly, no. Whether by conscious choice, pure luck (or both) my Europeian career is a comparatively small part of my overall NS career. I also joined Europeia rather late in my career and had already learned quite a few lessons from my extensive political activity in the LKE.
SkyGreen24: JST (if I may call you that). I understand that you've been Statsminister for some time now, what would you say sets this term apart from the previous ones?
John Spencer-Talleyrand: Of course Sky.
Indeed, on this term’s end (at the beginning of November) I will have served as Statsminister continuously for one year. Unfortunately, I was elected as Statsminister in the wake of Linkin’s (my predecessor as Statsminister) sudden disappearance, which left the government (in which I was serving as Minister of Culture) largely disorganised and without clear goals. Fuzzy (the then Deputy Statsminister who stepped up to lead the government after Linkin’s absence) did a good job keeping the ship steady; which is the best one can expect from a caretaker government. Ultimately, a successful government needs active leadership with clear goals. And that is what I have tried my very best to provide to Balder this past year.
Linkin had set out an ambitious programme at the start of his term (particularly for Culture), one which I tried to promote during my own tenure (as I did when I was Minister of Culture under Linkin). However, on top of that, I have tried (with the help of my Statsraadet colleagues) to promote further activity by undertaking new initiatives, such as expanding our Discord and RMB (and on-site generally) presence. And I think that is what sets my government apart from the previous one; undertaking new initiatives not only in areas we already have a solid presence but also reaching out to our more “forgotten” platforms with interesting activities.
It has by no means been all easy. I have encountered innumerable obstacles and on many occasions had to assess what we can and cannot do to get us back on track. But, overall, I know that at least I tried my very best and hope that I will leave Balder better than I inherited it.
SkyGreen24: Expanding the previous question, what would you like to highlight about the ministers for this term? Perhaps something about how you chose them, or how they have distinguished themselves?
John Spencer-Talleyrand: I am very pleased to say that I have had the pleasure of working with some very capable individuals this past year and I thank each and every one of them for their service.
Recognising that newcomers are the future of a region, I have tried to include them in the government. However, experience is also absolutely crucial. Overall, I tried to structure my government in a way that experience and newcomer energy complement each other.
SkyGreen24: As has been announced recently, Balder and Thaecia signed the Treaty of Cross and Crow. How would you describe Balder's current FA goals?
John Spencer-Talleyrand: Indeed, and I am very pleased this agreement happened under my government. As this agreement signifies, Balder is not only interested in cultivating existing relationships but also expanding our partnerships net.
SkyGreen24: Keeping us in the past and present; Europeia has had a noticeable shift in activity, as it switched from the forums to the Discord server. Would you say that Balder is experiencing something similar?
John Spencer-Talleyrand: I think this is a general phenomenon; in a way people long for more direct and synchronous communication than forums can provide. I think this shift also reflects the changing nature of the game as a whole. NationStates becomes an increasingly social game, which in my mind arguably defeats the original concept of it serving as a political simulator.
How much we can reverse this trend is debatable. In many ways, the writing has been on the wall for some years now; the ever-increasing prevalence of Discord has simply highlighted it more than ever.
It is also very different from the MSN Messenger era, which was used but was mainly restricted to government-related functions; in part because its modus operandi was very different. Discord’s structure holds a great amount of potential and in many ways mimics a forum with the benefit of easier administration and instant communication; which I can certainly see the appeal of and thus the reason many communities decided forums were a waste of resources and turned towards Discord. However, I would argue (as I will note below) that Discord cannot replace forums and forums still do matter.
SkyGreen24: And if there is a shift of some kind, do you think if there's a future for forums, and how do you imagine it?
John Spencer-Talleyrand: As I said above, I do not think forums are by any means on the way out. Forums still serve a very important function; they serve as the very core of our communities. The political structures our regions have established would have never been possible had we solely had Discord to rely on. For example, Europeia’s vibrant political arena would have never been possible had Europeia not used a forum. Forums are where ideas can be thoroughly and calmly conveyed, explored, and debated, where policy can be formulated in depth, where crucial documents can be stored, and many more without having to rely on any external platforms. Discord can serve as an extension and it is a great one to have but I would refrain from using it exclusively.
There are regions who rely on a combination of Discord and the NS site proper to conduct business. However, in my opinion this combination cannot rival the potential of forums as the home of a community. Of course, every region has the absolute right to decide how to operate, but if a region wants to develop a thriving political culture, not using a forum will almost inevitably hamper that objective. However, if a region wants to focus more on the social aspect with a slimmer political structure then a combination of Discord and the NS site proper is arguably worth exploring.
SkyGreen24: Continuing with the future, we are also expecting some new mechanics in the form of the Frontier/Stronghold update. While it was definitely made to affect the Feeder regions, how would you say it will affect Sinker regions such as Balder, if at all?
John Spencer-Talleyrand: I do not think the update will affect the sinkers when it comes to game mechanics. It may perhaps reduce the number of recruits as more nations will return to their original regions instead of sticking around (assuming they have been spawned in a frontier UCR and have become involved in it); however that is an already existing phenomenon (minus the UCR spawning part) and there is always a chance revived nations will return to their previous region.
However, it will certainly affect the way regions form their wider foreign policy, but that is by no means an issue affecting solely feeders or sinkers but the entirety of extant active regions.
SkyGreen24: As a small return to the past, recently a symposium was held on Independence, and I think the future of Independence is still being shaped. Now with the new changes in mind, do you expect a change in the way Independence is viewed, and a more broader change in the R/D sphere?
John Spencer-Talleyrand: At the very core of Independent ideology is regional self-interest. Accordingly, I am certain independents across NationStates will react to the changing circumstances with that point in mind. How exactly will that look like remains to be seen.
It will be extremely interesting to observe the changes in R/D. I believe it will depend on how the different regions react to the update. At this point, as has been said in Europeia, I think it extremely unlikely for an established region to become a frontier, as that course of action in my mind poses an unacceptably high risk. What could happen, however, would be regions racing to establish proxy frontier regions to take advantage of spawnings for recruitment without compromising the main region’s security. Given the requirements to maintain such a region it will be extremely resource-demanding for a single region to maintain one proxy, let alone multiple. We will more likely than not witness increased cooperation between regions in light of this.
Perhaps the R/D barriers will melt down. Will defenders choose to maintain the moral high ground while raiders and independents capture and set up frontiers all around them? Or will they seek to actively hamper these efforts by resorting to offensive action? And can such a policy be called defenderism? Perhaps not from the traditional point of view, but I could certainly call it defenderism from the vantage point of regional self-interest. But then it quickly starts to sound a lot like independence.
Is the future a chaotic free-for-all between alliances that only serve to protect their interests? It remains to be seen.
SkyGreen24: Noting that you are also a distinguished member of the LKE, would you say that the update also provides an additional incentive for Imperialism?
John Spencer-Talleyrand: I think it would certainly provide a unique opportunity to establish and maintain truly self-sufficient colonies. But the main question is how do imperialist regions get to that.
SkyGreen24: Finally, do you have any additional comments on the future of NS you'd like to note?
John Spencer-Talleyrand: I think my extensive answers to the previous questions are enough to cover everything I wanted to say. Thank you for this wonderful interview, it has truly been a pleasure.
SkyGreen24: Thank you for answering our questions, I'm sure our readers will enjoy it.