A system whereby a set of rules are imposed and enforced upon a population. Government determines who holds the power, and who does not. This might be contrasted with a state of nature or anarchy. But this contrast would be hypothetical, as at this point in history government rules all.

A government may enforce morality, positive rights, negative rights, social ideals, or itself. One thing a government always looks out for is its own strength and power. This is sadly necessary, as there are many more people desiring political power than can actually hold this power, and many of these people are quite ruthless.

There are many types of government. Americans swear by democracy, a system where the citizens have input on the formation or implementation of laws. A citizen may be defined as any set of people, not bound to the set of people ruled by the government. While democracy is gaining popularity around the world, direct democracy is still virtually unheard of, abandoned in favor of representative democracy. Other flavors include participatory democracy, social democracy and Jeffersonian democracy.

If you're a realist, you might prefer an aristocracy, that is, rule by the best suited. Unfortunately, since power is always abused, aristocracies tend to quickly devolve into rule by the powerful. You end up with a closed group of people, the members of which are usually determined by genetics, wealth, and power. There is also aristodemocracy. A form of government where the power is divided between the 'great people' of the nation and the masses.

A surprisingly popular and successful strategy is Monarchy, where power is held by one person, the king (or queen). The ruler is usually decided genetically, with occasional wars weeding out the weak and the unfit.

Socialism is not a type of government, exactly, but Communism is socialism supported by the government (or, in all cases so far, just state capitalism). It sounds like a good idea, but darn it, we just can't get a country going without a good free market to support it. (Props to the USSR and China for making a good go of it, tho.)

Fascism is a one party government, usually with very strict control over the populous. Democracies and Communist regimes can be fascist without loosing their democratic/communist status. Strangely, while monarchy has generally positive connotations, fascism does not. This is probably due to the influence of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

Bureaucracy is not really a form of government, but it deserves mention as the primary manifestation of modern governments.

See also:

  • Autocracy--Power is controlled by one person or a small group.
  • Bureaucracy--Many officials, rules are carefully followed.
  • Chrysocracy--Rule by the rich.
  • Demonocracy--Government by demons (not necessarily literaly).
  • Despotocracy--Rule by despots.
  • Diarchy, Dinarchy and Duarchy--Rule by two people.
  • Doulocracy or Dulocracy--A government by slaves.
  • Gerontocracy--Government by the old.
  • Gunocracy, Gyneocracy, Gynocracy or Gynecocracy--Government by a female or females.
  • Hagiarchy and Hagiocracy--Government by a priesthood.
  • Heptarchy--Rule by seven people.
  • Heterarchy--Government by a foreign ruler, or joint rule with a foreign state.
  • Hierocracy--Government by ecclesiastics.
  • Jesuitocracy--Government by Jesuits.
  • Kakistocracy--Government by the worst.
  • Kleptocracy--Government by thieves.
  • Kritarchy--The rule of the judges over Israel.
  • Meritocracy--Power is given to those with the most ability.
  • Mobocracy--Rule by the mob (masses).
  • Monocracy--Rule by one person.
  • Neocracy--Government by the new or inexperienced.
  • Nomocracy--Government in accordance with a set of laws.
  • Ochlocracy--Rule by the multitudes.
  • Oligarchy--power is in hands of a few persons.
  • Pantisocracy--All ruling equally.
  • Paparchy--Government by a pope.
  • Pedantocracy--Rule by pedants, or strict rule-bound scholars.
  • Pentarchy--Rule by five people.
  • Phylarchy--Government of a class or tribe.
  • Plantocracy--Government by the planters (farmers).
  • Plutocracy--Power in the hands of the rich.
  • Polycracy--Rule by many.
  • Pornocracy--Rule by harlots.
  • Ptochocracy--Rule of beggars or paupers.
  • Slavocracy--A term referring to all slave owners. Not a government.
  • Statocracy--Government by the state (as opposed to ecclesiastical power).
  • Stratocracy--A military government.
  • Synarchy--Joint rule.
  • Thalassocracy--Sovereignty of the seas.
  • Thearchy or Theocracy--Government directed by god.
  • Timocracy--Government based upon love of honor, or ruled by the land-owners.
  • Triarchy--Rule by three people.
  • Whiggarchy--Government by Whigs.
  • Ever since we have had civilizations, there have been governments. As long as these governments have been around, there have been dissenters who believe that another form of government would be better. The last four centuries have presented us with a multitude of governments, each with ideas differing from the governments to precede them. In this node, I intend to give a brief history of government, and show how democracy has been the type of government that is naturally shifted to.

    The first civilizations, such as Greece and Mesopotamia, were mostly despotisms. Whoever controlled the military controlled the country. When the despot died, it was up to the generals to decide who controlled the military. Internal conflicts such as this led to the collapse of several empires, including the Mongol states and Alexander the Great’s empire. Gradually, the people tired of despotism and a new form of government was born: the monarchy.

    These first monarchs actually ruled a theocracy, were the king was seen as a direct agent of God or the gods. Although similar to despotisms, theocracies differed in that the populace generally supported the ruler. These theocratic views were shown in James I of England’s speech before Parliament, where he calls kings “Gods lieutenants on earth.” This idea is also echoed in Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet’s statement that kings were demigods in themselves, which is the true definition of theocracy. These theocracies/ monarchies were the first absolute monarchies. Even once the religious aspect of government faded away, many rulers and philosophers, such as Voltaire, still believed in absolutism, as is evident in the French monarchy up until the French Revolution.

    Just as the absolute monarchy was a step from despotism, the next major change in government was the move from absolutism to constitutionalism. This view was supported by Thomas Hobbes, who believed that the monarchy was a tool to help people get along. He stated in his great work Leviathan that “the only way to erect such a common power the monarch… is to confer all their power and strength upon one man.” In short, the king rules because his subjects wish him to. This is also shown on the frontispiece to Leviathan, where the monarch rules over all. However, the king is composed of his subjects, for it is they who give power to the king. This idea of “benevolent monarchy” is stated several times throughout history. Fredrick the Great of Prussia advised fellow rulers “to recollect that they are but a man, like the least of their subjects.”

    It was the writings of John Locke that set the gears for democracy rolling. He disagreed with Hobbes on the subject of who should get the power. Locke believed that “a man…cannot subject himself to the arbitrary power of another.” This belief, coupled with the actions of George III, inspired the American colonists to break away from Great Britain and start a new country. As-so-far, the United States has remained the most stable country in the world. This indicates that Lockean government is more efficient than any of the other forms of government mentioned previously.

    This statement is supported by the fact that newer governments have failed miserably. Lenin tried to form a Marxist state, as he stated in a speech in Petrograd in 1917, but it was never truly Marxist. Stalin’s corruption proved even more strongly that communism simply doesn’t work. This political experiment has cost Russia dearly in world affairs. Also, Hitler tried to install a Nazi regime in Germany. It took a world war to demonstrate what a bad idea that was.

    In conclusion, government has shifted towards democracy in the last four centuries, and seems to have found its balance there. However, this does not prove that democracy is the best form of government possible. It is just the best that our political philosophers and theologians have managed to come up with so far.

    Node your Homework

    Typically, a government reserves the right to use force against individual people, and such use of force is deemed illegal in the hands of anyone not acting as an agent of the government. To motivate agents of the government to use such force as necessary to enforce laws, the government must pay resources to them. Agents acting to enforce laws without getting paid by the government are called vigilantes and they are considered criminals. The resources a government pays to its agents are collected from those the government serves, the citizens. In the case of almost every government, some of the laws it enforces take away from its citizens a little of what they earn to cover the cost of enforcing the laws.

    There exists a belief in the necessity of taking a little of what you produce away from you for the benefits provided by enforcing the laws. This belief appears to grow out of the idea that people agree that it is morally correct to take a little of what you produce in order to benefit the public. When broken down to a personal level, the question becomes very interesting:

    Would you honor a demand from your neighbor to give him a little bit of each paycheck you earn? How many people must make the demand in order for you to accept it as legitimate? There may be a number or proportion of people that causes you to feel that the demand has legitimacy. It is an excellent question to ponder in your free time.

    An alternative view to the belief that it is necessary to take a little away from each citizen to pay for the enforcement of laws is this: Each citizen that believes a set of laws as described by an enforcement agency should be enforced, whether or not it is considered or accepted as the government, will choose to pay to have those laws enforced. This produces the effect that the most valuable laws will be backed by the strongest enforcement efforts, and those laws that are generally useless will no longer be enforced.

    The essential difference between the two kinds of government to which these two opposing views lead is this: The first is a government whose power comes from coercion, and the second is a government whose power comes from choice.

    The first requires that citizens vote in order to legitimize laws (and/or their law makers) by reaching some as yet unexplained threshold of consensus. The second uses citizens' ability to choose how to spend their money to determine the value of their laws (and/or their law makers). The first provides an opportunity for unscrupulous political agents to profit from the use of coercion while operating above the law. The second requires that such criminals resort to deceit, since no coercion is sanctioned, and makes them susceptible to the natural consequences of immoral behavior.

    Princes and Kings, Thieves and Liars

    Up in the city's crystal spires
    Greedy men wearing business attire
    Burn through our cash just like a fire
    Our princes and kings are thieves and liars

    Down in the labyrinth of streets below
    Blacks pent up in their ghetto
    locked into place by the status quo
    without a choice, they fill their role

    The way things are, the way they'll be
    All depends on your money
    The ones who buy, the ones who spend
    Make all the laws, set all the trends

    The way tings are, the way they'll be
    Capitalist society
    the ones who buy, the ones who spend
    the game is rigged for them to win

    Up in the hills, suburban white
    Letting us know what's wrong and right
    Unaware they're locked up tight
    scared themselves into a prison of fright

    Down in the white house he calls home
    Ol' king George sits on his throne
    Disregards the people's moans
    Wanting everything for his own

    It seems the ones we've chose to lead
    Are loyal only to their greed
    Robbin' us blind so we'll never see
    We're bound and shackled by our needs

    They've taken a census and agree
    It's much to dangerous to be free
    Got to protect the bourgeoisie
    And lock 'em up if they disagree


    Gov"ern*ment (?), n. [F. gouvernement. See Govern.]

    1.

    The act of governing; the exercise of authority; the administration of laws; control; direction; regulation; as, civil, church, or family government.

    2.

    The mode of governing; the system of polity in a state; the established form of law.

    That free government which we have so dearly purchased, free commonwealth. Milton.

    3.

    The right or power of governing; authority.

    I here resign my goverment to thee. Shak.

    4.

    The person or persons authorized to administer the laws; the ruling powe; the administratian.

    When we, in England, speak of the government, we generally understand the ministers of the crown for the time being. Mozley & W.

    5.

    The body politic governed by one authority; a state; as, the governments of Europe.

    6.

    Management of the limbs or body.

    Shak.

    7. Gram.

    The influence of a word in regard to construction, requiring that another word should be in a particular case.

     

    © Webster 1913.

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