Why Government? In the absence of government (called the “State of Nature”) everyone must defend themselves from threats and other people. With no laws, moral standards or enforcement mechanisms, living in the state of nature is dangerous. People begin cooperating for protection. Those cooperatives require resources. The cooperatives claim territory.
Why Government? Early cooperatives were based on family. As families grew, they became tribes. The eldest male was usually the strongest, and therefore was “Chief” and in control. He made the rules. The rules the Chief created for his tribe were laws, the territory they claimed for resources was the border of their “state”, and the authority he possessed made him a despotic ruler. It was the first form of Government.
Type 1: Anarchy Anarchy is commonly defined as the absence of a governing power. Individuals living in the State of Nature were living in an anarchy. Some (including John Locke) thought anarchy would be desirable if people would restrain themselves.
Type 2: Despotism A Despotism is a government with only one ruler. A Monarchy is a despotic system of government with a King or Queen as a ruler. An Empire is a despotic system that places an Emperor or Empress in charge of a diverse group of states. An empire can also be ruled by a group, making it an…
Type 3: Oligarchy An Oligarchy is a system in which the power exists in the hands of a few elite people. The elite few who rule in an Oligarchy can be determined by class, conquest, wealth and a variety of other factors. It is generally considered that the common people have little influence over who rules in an oligarchy. If the people have a voice, than the system of government is more of a…
Type 4: Representative Democracy In a Representative Democracy, the people select individuals who in turn make decisions and wield the power of the government. The United States is officially considered a republic, and makes use of Representative Democracy on the state and federal level. The state of California has a unique ballot- proposal system that allows citizens to vote on policy issues. This is a form of…
Type 5: Direct Democracy In a Direct Democracy, the voters do not elect representatives to make decisions. Instead, issues are brought directly to the people for a popular vote. Despite being the most “democratic” form of government, the logistics and complexity of the issues faced by our government makes the utilization of direct democracy very difficult.
Economic Systems Some terms used today to describe governmental structures are actually describing economic systems. The various types of government can adopt a variety of economic policies. These are rough categories, most economies are not “pure” versions of any of these types.
Capitalism Capitalist systems stress private ownership and management of resources. “Pure” capitalism would call for no government involvement or regulation of products or services. The term caveat emptor or “buyer beware” is a rule of thumb in a pure capitalism. Upton Sinclar’s novel “The Jungle” exposed food sanitation issues and resulted in expanded government regulation.
Socialism Socialism calls for state control of resources and the provision of services. Socialism has many varieties, including social democracy (which stresses values and not state control) and Marxist Socialism (which sees socialism as a stepping stone to Communism.)
Communism In its pure form, Communism is both a governmental system and an economic system. Communism calls for the absence of government, with collective ownership of all resources and collective decision-making. Most “Communist” countries have not been Communist at all, instead combining Fascism with either Oligarchy or Despotism.
Totalitarianism Totalitarianism is the belief that the government (regardless of the system, but usually a Despotism) should have unlimited authority. Encourages government involvement in all aspects of personal life.
Fascism While some argue that Fascism is either the extreme right or the extreme left, Fascism cannot be accurately measured on the typical liberal/conservative spectrum. Fascist regimes are usually Oligarchies, with the controlling party being the elite group. Fascist regimes use radical nationalism, calls for racial and ethnic purity, propaganda, and suggestions of mysticism to gain power.