There are many governments and states around the globe. The state is the political unit that holds power and authority in this context. This unit could be a nation as a whole or a sub-nation within it. The world’s governments can be called states (or nation-states) or subdivisions within a country, like Texas, New York, California, and New York in the United States. The government refers to the people who manage a state’s political affairs. However, it could also refer to the type of government that governs a state. This second definition of government can also be called political systems. We will use it here alongside the government. People’s freedom, welfare, and even lives are affected by the type of government they live under. We will now briefly examine the most critical political systems today.
Democracy is the type of government we are most familiar with. This system allows citizens to directly or indirectly govern their affairs. Democracy is a term that comes from Greek. It means “rule by the people.” direct or pure democracies allow citizens to make decisions about policies and the distribution of resources that directly affect them. A New England town meeting is an example of such democracy in action. It involves residents meeting once a year to vote on budgetary matters. Direct democracies can be challenging to implement when there are more than a few hundred people. Representative democracies have become more popular. These types of democracies allow citizens to elect representatives who will vote on issues that affect them.
Although representative democracy is more practical than direct democracy in any society, political scientists point out another benefit of representative democracy. It ensures that those who manage an organization or help it function in other ways are the people who have the right skills and knowledge. This way of thinking suggests that most people need to be more educated, uneducated, and interested in managing society. Representative democracy allows “the cream of the crop to rise to the top” to ensure that those who govern a community can do this critical task well (Seward 2010, Seward). This argument is valid, but it’s also true that many people elected to office are corrupt and ineffective. Regardless of our political orientation, Americans can quickly think of politicians to whom these labels are applicable, from presidents to local officials. Chapter 14, “Politics and Government,” Section 14.4, “Politics and Government in the United States,” explains how campaign contributions from corporations and special-interest groups can influence elected officials. Representative democracy fails to live up to the ideals set forth by political theorists if this happens.
Voting in elections is the most crucial feature of representative democracy. Most of the world’s governments at the time the United States was founded more than 230 centuries ago were monarchies or other authoritarian systems (discussed soon). These nations suffered under the arbitrary power of their rulers, much like the colonists. The American Revolution’s example and the powerful words of its Declaration of Independence inspired the French Revolution of 1789 and many other revolutions. People all over the globe have died for the right to vote.
Monarchy refers to a political system where power is held in one family, which rules from the next generation. The family has traditional authority, and many monarchs command respect for this kind of authority. However, other monarchs have earned respect by using arbitrary power or even terror. Although the Royal Family is still in control, their influence has diminished from centuries ago. The Queen of England is ceremonial, but her predecessors had much greater power.
This example shows a historical shift in monarchies from absolute to constitutional monarchies (Finer 1997). Absolute monarchies are where the royal family has a divine right to rule and exercises great power over their kingdom. Absolute monarchies are common in ancient times (e.g., Egypt) and medieval (e.g., England and China). However, many absolute monarchs needed to be more in control. Kings and queens were responsible for considering the wishes and needs of other powerful parties, such as the clergy and nobility. Over time, absolute monarchies were replaced by constitutional monarchies. These monarchies have a royal family that serves only a symbolic and ceremonial function and has little to no real power. The government’s executive and legislative branches- the prime minister and the parliament in many countries- run the government. Even though the royal family is still highly respected and admired. Today, constitutional monarchies are found in many countries, including Denmark and Great Britain, Norway, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Spain.
An elite, small group holds power in an Oligarchy. An oligarchy is unlike a monarchy in that members do not automatically attain their statuses due to noble ancestry. They may rise to power through military might, economic power, or similar circumstances.
It is difficult to define the concept of an oligarchy. Very rarely does a society declare itself an oligarchy. The word has negative connotations. It conjures up images of corrupt groups that make poor policy decisions to preserve their privileges. Many modern democracies that claim to be democratic are oligarchies. Paul Krugman, a prominent journalist awarded a Nobel laureate in economics, has called the United States an “oligarchy.” This is due to the influence of Wall Street executives and large corporations on U.S. policies (Krugman 2011). Others argue that democracies can be “elected oligarchies” or systems where citizens vote for someone who is part of a group of candidates chosen from the society’s elite ruling class (Winters 2011).
Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism or authoritarianism can be used to describe non-democratic political systems governed by an individual or group of people who are not elected freely by their citizens and frequently exercise arbitrary power. To be more precise, authoritarianism is a political system in which an individual or group holds power and restricts or prohibits participation by the people in governance. It also represses any dissent. Totalitarianism is a political system that includes all the characteristics of authoritarianism but is more restrictive in its attempts to control and regulate all aspects of citizens’ lives. People can be jailed or even killed if they disagree with accepted practices. The purple countries, “Freedom Around the World Based on Extent of Political Rights Civil Liberties,” are mainly totalitarian regimes. The orange ones are authoritarian.
Authoritarian and totalitarian governments tend to be more unstable than monarchies and democracies. This is because they need to have legitimate authority. Their power is based on fear and repression. These people are not happy to submit to their leaders. They also realize how their leaders treat them. Because of this, they are more likely to rebel than those living in democratic countries. They may rebel occasionally, and if enough people are involved, it can lead to a revolution. Those living in democratic countries, on the other hand, feel that they are treated fairly and that they have the ability to change things through the electoral process. They don’t rebel, seeing any need to revolt.