Civilization V uses policies where previous editions had civics or governments. They function as little talent trees for your nation, and one great virtue is that they have no drawbacks. You no longer pick a government type that receives more production at the cost of less science or an economy that is good for guns but not butter. You just pick “more production” or “good for guns.”
Invisibly baked in is that “less science” and “bad for butter” are the default states. There are bonuses for production or science, and when you pick production, you do not pick science. Balanced around this, the effect is the same, but the player is happier because there is no visible penalty. In MMO-land, designers have learned to give a buff for eating rather than a debuff for not eating; the math is the same, but the psychology differs.
The trade-offs are more visible in the mutually exclusive policies. There is a pair and a trio, and you can pick only one from each set, but the other five are open to everyone. Do you prefer hard-coded mutual exclusivity or just the exclusivity caused by having limited choices?
Civ V also uses a soft cap for policies, with increasing culture costs for each, rather than a hard cap. The game will not run long enough for you to unlock 42 policies, so the potential for another is always there.
It is the weekend, so I can play Civilization. I have learned that it is bad for my sleep schedule to do so during the week.