It may feel that way, but it's a misconception that fails to account for opportunity cost - every policy costs culture that is then not being used to unlock a different bonus, just as every civic you have in Civ IV is preventing you using any of four other civics simultaneously. Few of Civ IV's civics had any negative effect either - you were just choosing between different positives. There's nothing wrong with that approach and indeed Civ IV's civics are one of its most popular features. Each Civ you're choosing means that you aren't gaining the bonus from one of 33 other civs. This trend is a natural consequence of following the trend established in Civ IV. Civ IV added: great people that appear over time to give you free bonuses on top of the benefits the buildings that produce them provide; Civ-specific units and buildings as strict upgrades on existing units (think Civ IV didn't reward you with freebies? Play as China and tell me the pavillion and cho-ko-nu aren't major free upgrades over the units they replace - the latter sometimes with a free promotion from an industrious leader); unit promotions that let you select between several free bonuses; and ruins that were always positive, carrying no risk of spawning barbarians (unlike all the previous games). There's a difficult balancing act in any game, because expansion is intrinsically always superior to playing 'tall', and the bonuses are not small: you get extra production slots, extra territory to farm with population (and so ultimately more commerce), your population grows faster overall, and can produce multiples of any resource-generating building to boost science, culture etc. directly. With some religious tenets in Civ V, and with religions overall in Civ IV, you're directly rewarded for number of cities, not just number of followers (notwithstanding that the latter will in any case be greater in larger empires due to the larger population). In Civ V religious pressure is greater the more cities you have following a religion, while you're also likely to have more potential trade partners in range of your caravans earlier in the game, as well as more trade connections via roads between your own cities; in Civ IV the cap on trade routes per city achieved a similar result. To balance all that, constraints on expansion have to be pretty strict - ultimately more cities will generate more culture or science than they cost by expansion, and while fairly small may generate net happiness. And you still have the advantage in production slots and, critically, rate of population growth. I think Civ V ultimately went a little too far, less because of the mechanics constraining growth than because of the overpowering of Tradition and the outdated national wonder mechanic (the need for an early National College is probably the biggest reason expansion is limited in Civ V) - though I think global happiness has had its day.