Government: A government can influence the way its people live, the way they think, and directly or indirectly affect how far an individual can go in life.
You can learn a lot about a government by how it treats its dissenters or those suspected of dissenting. In George Orwell's 1984, the invasion of Big Brother and the execution of those suspected of not drinking the government kool-aid mean that citizens can't write angry letters to their Congressmen for sport. In THE HUNGER GAMES, the Capitol punishes the districts for their rebellion by forcing district citizens to sacrifice their children to slaughter each year.
A "government" in a story doesn't have to be a literal government; it can merely be a unit of activity where someone is in charge:
In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, the head of the "government" is the corrupt warden who exploits a prisoner for his knowledge and work skills while refusing to release him when he learns this prisoner is an innocent man.
In Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus' THE NANNY DIARIES, the head of the "government" is Mrs. X and her disinterested V.P. and husband, Mr. X. The citizen is the Nanny, whose livelihood rests on the whims of her selfish and vindictive employer.
Most stories about sad orphans or neglected children usually hint at a higher authority who is doing its part to make these young people miserable.
Golden Age: In many dystopian and futuristic stories I come across, there is often a reference, sometimes a subtle one, to a time when life was sweeter before things started going downhill. I regard this "time when life was sweeter" as a Golden Age, and also a point of reference for what is presently surreal and something seemingly impossible for the featured world to ever return to. A golden age can refer to a historical period within a world, and it could also refer to a special stretch of time in someone's life.
In Ray Bradbury's FARENHEIT 451, a girl claims to have heard that firemen were once people who put out fires instead of starting them.
In Margaret Atwood's THE HANDMAID'S TALE, Offred lives in strict confinement as a sex slave. Offred sometimes recalls her former life as a carefree college student, a happily married woman and mother, and a time when she had taken liberties, such as reading signs, smoking cigarettes, and wearing hand lotion, for granted.
Are you living in your Golden Age now, or is that a thing of the past?
There must be stories featuring examples of soft and fuzzy governing out there....perhaps you can name some for me?