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Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Government is the organization, machinery, or agency through which a political unit exercises its authority, controls and administers public policy, and directs and controls the actions of its members or subjects[1].

Typically, the term "government" refers to a civil government or sovereign state which can be either local, national, or international. However, commercial, academic, religious, or other formal organizations are also governed by internal bodies. Such bodies may be called boards of directors, managers, or governors or they may be known as the administration (as in schools) or councils of elders (as in churches). The size of governments can vary by region or purpose.

Growth of an organization advances the complexity of its government, therefore small towns or small-to-medium privately-operated enterprises will have fewer officials than typically larger organizations such as multinational corporations which tend to have multiple interlocking, hierarchical layers of administration and governance. As complexity increases and the nature of governance becomes more complicated, so does the need for formal policies and procedures.

Contents

Types of governments

A color-coded legend of forms of government. Click on map to see the legend.
  • Anarchism - a political philosophy which considers the state to be unnecessary, harmful, or otherwise undesirable, and favors instead a stateless society
  • Authoritarian – Authoritarian governments are characterized by an emphasis on the authority of the state in a republic or union. It is a political system controlled by nonelected rulers who usually permit some degree of individual freedom.
  • Constitutional monarchy – A government that has a monarch, but one whose powers are limited by law or by a formal constitution. Example: United Kingdom[2][3]
  • Constitutional republic – A government whose powers are limited by law or a formal constitution, and which is chosen by a vote amongst at least some sections of the populace (Ancient Sparta was in its own terms a republic, though most inhabitants were disenfranchised; The early United States was a republic, but the large numbers of slaves did not have the vote). Republics which exclude sections of the populace from participation will typically claim to represent all citizens (by defining people without the vote as "non-citizens").
  • Democracy – Rule by a government (usually a Constitutional Republic or Constitutional Monarchy) chosen by election where most of the populace are enfranchised. The key distinction between a democracy and other forms of constitutional government is usually taken to be that the right to vote is not limited by a person's wealth or race (the main qualification for enfranchisement is usually having reached a certain age). A Democratic government is therefore one supported (at least at the time of the election) by a majority of the populace (provided the election was held fairly). A "majority" may be defined in different ways. There are many "power-sharing" (usually in countries where people mainly identify themselves by race or religion) or "electoral-college" or "constituency" systems where the government is not chosen by a simple one-vote-per-person headcount.
  • Dictatorship – Rule by an individual who has full power over the country. The term may refer to a system where the Dictator came to power, and holds it, purely by force - but it also includes systems where the Dictator first came to power legitimately but then was able to amend the constitution so as to, in effect, gather all power for themselves.[4] See also Autocracy and Stratocracy.
  • Monarchy – Rule by an individual who has inherited the role and expects to bequeath it to their heir.[5]
  • Oligarchy – Rule by a small group of people who share similar interests or family relations.[6]
  • Plutocracy – A government composed of the wealthy class. Any of the forms of government listed here can be plutocracy. For instance, if all of the voted representatives in a republic are wealthy, then it is a republic and a plutocracy.
  • Theocracy – Rule by a religious elite.[7]
  • Totalitarian – Totalitarian governments regulate nearly every aspect of public and private life.
  • Legalism - A legalistic government enforces the law with rewards to those who obey the laws and harsh punishments to people who go against the law.

Origin

For many thousands of centuries when people were hunter-gatherers and small scale farmers, humans lived in small, non-hierarchical and self-sufficient communities.

The development of agriculture resulted in ever increasing population densities.[8] David Christian explains how this helped result in states with laws and governments:

As farming populations gathered in denser and larger communities, interactions between different groups increased and the social pressure rose until, in a striking parallel with star formation, new structures suddenly appeared, together with a new level of complexity. Like stars, cities and states reorganize and energize the smaller objects within their gravitational field.
—David Christian, p. 245, Maps of Time

The exact moment and place that the erectional phenomenon of human government developed is lost in time; however, history does record the formations of very early governments. About 5,000 years ago, the first small city-states appeared.[8] By the third to second millenniums BC, some of these had developed into larger governed areas: Sumer, Ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilization, and the Yellow River Civilization.[9]

States formed as the results of a positive feedback loop where population growth results in increased information exchange which results in innovation which results in increased resources which results in further population growth.[10][11] The role of cities in the feedback loop is important. Cities became the primary conduits for the dramatic increases in information exchange that allowed for large and densely packed populations to form, and because cities concentrated knowledge, they also ended up concentrating power.[12][13] "Increasing population density in farming regions provided the demographic and physical raw materials used to construct the first cities and states, and increasing congestion provided much of the motivation for creating states."[14]

Fundamental purpose

According to supporters of government,the fundamental purpose of government is the maintenance of basic security and public order.[15] The philosopher Thomas Hobbes figured that people were rational animals and thus saw submission to a government dominated by a sovereign as preferable to anarchy.[16][17] According to Hobbes, people in a community create and submit to government for the purpose of establishing for themselves, safety and public order.[17][18][19][20]

Early examples

These are examples of some of the earliest known states:

Expanded roles

Military defense

The fundamental purpose of government is to maintain social order and protect property. “Security of person and property, and equal justice between individuals, are the first needs of society, and the primary ends of government: if these things can be left to any responsibility below the highest, there is nothing, except war and treaties, which requires a general government at all.” [23]

Militaries are created to deal with the highly complex task of confronting large numbers of enemies.

Once governments came onto the scene, they began to form and use armies for conflicts with neighboring states, and for conquest of new lands. Governments seek to maintain monopolies on the use of force,[24] and to that end, they usually suppress the development of private armies within their borders.

Social security

Social security is related to economic security. Throughout most of human history, parents prepared for their old age by producing enough children to ensure that some of them would survive long enough to take care of the parents in their old age.[25] In modern, relatively high-income societies, a mixed approach is taken where the government shares a substantial responsibility of taking care of the elderly.[25]

This is not the case everywhere since there are still many countries where social security through having many children is the norm. Although social security is a relatively recent phenomenon, prevalent mostly in developed countries, it deserves mention because the existence of social security substantially changes reproductive behavior in a society, and it has an impact on reducing the cycle of poverty.[25] By reducing the cycle of poverty, government creates a self-reinforcing cycle where people see the government as friend both because of the financial support they receive late in their lives, but also because of the overall reduction in national poverty due to the government's social security policies—which then adds to public support for social security.[26]

Aspects of government

The Parliament of the United Kingdom, the 'Mother of all Parliaments'

Governments vary greatly, as do the relationships of citizens of a state to its government.

Abuse of power

The leaders of governments are human beings, and given human nature, what constitutes good governance has been a subject written about since the earliest books known. In the western tradition Plato wrote extensively on the question, most notably in The Republic. He (in the voice of Socrates) asked if the purpose of government was to help ones friends and hurt ones enemies, for example. Aristotle, Plato's student picked up the subject in his treatise on Politics. Many centuries later, John Locke addressed the question of abuse of power by writing on the importance of checks and balances [27] to prevent or at least constrain abuse. It is believed that Thomas Jefferson was influenced by John Locke.[28]

Legitimacy

The concept of legitimacy is central to the study of governments. Statists have attempted to formalize ways to legitimize government or state authority.

Social contract theorists, such as Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rosseau, believe that governments reduce people's freedom/rights in exchange for protecting them, and maintaining order. Many people question, however, whether this is an actual exchange (where people voluntarily give up their freedoms), or whether they are taken by threat of force by the ruling party.

Other statist theorists, like David Hume, reject social contract theory on the grounds that, in reality, consent is not involved in state-individual relationships and instead offer different definitions of legitimacy based on practicality and usefulness.

Anarchists, on the other hand, claim that legitimacy for an authority must be consensual and reject the concept of states altogether; For them, authority must be earned, not self-legitimated. For example, a police officer does not earn his authority as a doctor does, because the authority is voluntarily transferred to the doctor while the police officer just takes it.

Criticised aspects

War

In the most basic sense, people of one nation will see the government of another nation as the enemy when the two nations are at war. For example, the people of Carthage saw the Roman government as the enemy during the Punic wars.[29]

Enslavement

In early human history, the outcome of war for the defeated was often enslavement. The enslaved people would not find it easy to see the conquering government as a friend.

Religious opposition

People with religious views opposed to the official state religion will have a greater tendency to view that government as their enemy. A good example would be the condition of Roman Catholicism in England before the Catholic Emancipation. Protestants—who were politically dominant in England—used political, economic and social means to reduce the size and strength of Catholicism in England over the 16th to 18th centuries, and as a result, Catholics in England felt that their religion was being oppressed.[30]

Class oppression

Whereas capitalists in a capitalist country may tend to see that nation's government positively, a class-conscious group of industrial workers—a proletariat—may see things very differently. If the proletariat wishes to take control of the nation's productive resources, and they are blocked in their endeavors by continuing adjustments in the law made by capitalists in the government,[31] then the proletariat will come to see the government as their enemy—especially if the conflicts become violent.

The same situation can occur among peasants. The peasants in a country, e.g. Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great, may revolt against their landlords, only to find that their revolution is put down by government.

Anarchism / Libertarian socialism

Anarchists and libertarian socialists are opposed to the state as a form of government, and to hierarchical social structures in general. Anarchists believe that explicit consent is necessary for legitimacy within a collective group or government. There are many forms of anarchist theories. Some anarchists, such as anarcho-syndicalists or anarcho-primitivists, advocate egalitarianism and non-hierarchical societies while others, such as anarcho-capitalists, advocate free markets, individual sovereignty and freedom.

See also

Levels of civil government:

Notes

  1. ^ "government" -- Dictionary.com: cites 3 separate dictionaries
  2. ^ Fotopoulos, Takis, The Multidimensional Crisis and Inclusive Democracy. (Athens: Gordios, 2005).(English translation of the book with the same title published in Greek).
  3. ^ "Victorian Electronic Democracy : Glossary". July 28, 2005. http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/SARC/E-Democracy/Final_Report/Glossary.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-14. 
  4. ^ American 503
  5. ^ American 1134
  6. ^ American 1225
  7. ^ American 1793
  8. ^ a b Christian 245
  9. ^ a b c d e Christian 294
  10. ^ Christian 253
  11. ^ Most of this sentence is in the present tense because the process is still ongoing.
  12. ^ Christian 271
  13. ^ The concept of the city itself became a self-reinforcing cycle. "The creation of such large and dense communities required new forms of power", and since cities concentrate power, the new (sovereign) rulers had incentives to build and expand cities to further increase their power.(Christian 271,321)
  14. ^ Christian 248
  15. ^ Schulze 81
  16. ^ Dietz 68
  17. ^ a b Social Contract Theory
  18. ^ Dietz 65-66
  19. ^ Hobbes idea of the necessity of the formation of government is known as the social contract theory.
  20. ^ The field of study and thought about the necessity of governments and governments' relationships with people is known as political philosophy.
  21. ^ Higham, "Indus Valley Civilization"
  22. ^ Haas, Jonathan; Winifred Creamer, Alvaro Ruiz (23 December 2004). "Dating the Late Archaic occupation of the Norte Chico region in Peru". Nature 432: 1020–1023. doi:10.1038/nature03146. 
  23. ^ John Stuart Mill in Representative Government, 1861
  24. ^ Adler 80-81
  25. ^ a b c Nebel 165-166
  26. ^ Bruce Bartlett. Social Security Then and Now. COMMENTARY. March 2005, Vol. 119, No. 3, pp. 52-56. In the online version on paragraph 13 it suggests that, During the Great Depression, Roosevelt wanted to suppress revolutionary tendencies by tying workers to the state—hence a state-run social security system. Also read the paragraphs above where it talks about populist demagogues and socialist revolutions in other countries. Tying workers to the state through social security was a politically strategic move designed to preserve the United States of America and its democracy.
  27. ^ Thefreemanonline.org
  28. ^ Stanford.edu
  29. ^ E.L. Skip Knox. "The Punic Wars". Department of History, Boise State University. http://history.boisestate.edu/WESTCIV/punicwar/. Retrieved 2007-12-14. 
  30. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: England (Since the Reformation)". www.newadvent.org. 1913. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05445a.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-14. 
  31. ^ Christian 358

References

  • Kenoyer, J. M. Ancient Cities of the Indus Civilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998
  • Possehl, Gregory L. Harappan Civilization: A Recent Perspective. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993
  • Indus Age: The Writing System. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996
  • “Revolution in the Urban Revolution: The Emergence of Indus Urbanisation,” Annual Review of Anthropology 19 (1990): 261–282.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A government is a body that has the authority to make and the power to enforce laws within a civil, corporate, religious, academic, or other organization or group.

Contents

Sourced

  • [Administration] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom restrained from acting, such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which government is the shepherd.
  • A state, is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: “I, the state, am the people. It is a lie! Creators were they who created peoples, and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life.Destroyers, are they who lay snares for many, and call it the state: they hang a sword and a hundred cravings over them.
  • Government, in the last analysis, is organized opinion. Where there is little or no public opinion, there is likely to be bad government, which sooner or later becomes autocratic government.
  • What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.
    • Mayer, Milton (1966) [1955]. They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (2nd edition ed.). University of Chicago Press. pp. p. 166. ISBN 0-226-51192-8.  
  • Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.
    • Barnhill, John Basil (1914). "Indictment of Socialism No. 3" (PDF). Barnhill-Tichenor Debate on Socialism. Saint Louis, Missouri: National Rip-Saw Publishing. pp. p. 34. Retrieved on 2008-10-16.  
  • People should not be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.
  • What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.
  • On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
  • A government is a body of people, usually notably ungoverned.
    • Shepard Book, Firefly, episode "War Stories".

Unsourced

  • A properly functioning free market system does not spring spontaneously from society's soil as crabgrass springs from suburban lawns. Rather, it is a complex creation of laws and mores... Capitalism is a government program.
  • Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.
  • Do not ask what the Government can do for you. Ask why it doesn't.
    • Gerhard Kocher
  • Giving money and power to Government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
  • Bureaucracy and social harmony are inversely proportional to each other.
  • Government is a disease masquerading as its own cure.
    • Robert Lefevre
  • I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.
  • It is just as difficult and dangerous to try to free a people that wants to remain servile as it is to enslave a people that wants to remain free.
  • It's hard to argue with the government. Remember, they run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, so they must know a thing or two about satisfying women.
  • I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."
  • No government, of its own motion, will increase its own weakness, for that would mean to acquiesce in its own destruction ... governments, whatever their pretensions otherwise, try to preserve themselves by holding the individual down ... Government itself, indeed, may be reasonably defined as a conspiracy against him. Its one permanent aim, whatever its form, is to hobble him sufficiently to maintain itself.
  • Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.
  • Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.
  • Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government.
  • The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself... Almost inevitably, he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.
  • The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting.
  • The essence of government is force, and most often that force is used to accomplish evil ends.
  • The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the government.
  • The object of government in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or of races, but the happiness of the common man.
  • The one who votes decides nothing. The one who counts the vote decides everything.
  • The problem to be solved is, not what form of government is perfect, but which of the forms is least imperfect.
  • The system you hate is the system you support!
    • Crude S.S. a swedish Hardcore Punk Band
  • There's no government like No Government.
    • Jackney Sneeb
  • The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual, crime.
  • The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.
  • Today marks a significant move towards reforming our correctional system. For too long, our system of corrections has operated in the shadows of government, with very little oversight and accountability. It’s time to shine a light on how we can better improve the management of our prisons.
  • Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been found that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.
  • You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the great struggle for independence.
  • Yes, government is far too big. But that's not to say that it has much control. It makes a million laws and can't enforce most of them. So many laws, so little order.
  • Governments vary. A monarchy protects the interests of the people through the interest of the state while a democracy protects the interest of the state through the interests of the people.
    • Anonymous
  • Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to eat for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed sheep contesting the vote. - Unknown
  • The administration of government, like a guardianship, ought to be directed to the good of those who confer and not of those who receive the trust.
  • Power exercised with violence has seldom been of long duration, but temper and moderation generally produce permanence in all things.
  • No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable.
    • Madison
  • The best government is not that which renders men the happiest, but that which renders the greatest number happy.
    • Duclos
  • No man undertakes a trade he has not learned, even the meanest; yet every one thinks himself sufficiently qualified for the hardest of all trades,—that of government.
  • In the early ages men ruled by strength; now they rule by brain, and so long as there is only one man in the world who can think and plan, he will stand head and shoulders above him who cannot.
    • Beecher
  • The proper function of a government is to make it easy for people to do good, and difficult for them to do evil.
  • All free governments are managed by the combined wisdom and folly of the people.
  • Those who think must govern those who toil.
    • Goldsmith
  • The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.
    • John Stuart Miller
  • Economic history is a long record of government policies that failed because they were designed with a bold disregard for the laws of economics
  • A government by secrecy benefits no one. It injures the people it seeks to serve; it damages its own integrity and operation. It breeds distrust, dampens the fervor of its citizens and mocks their loyalty.
    • Senator Long, 1964
  • The Democrats' biggest foe isn't conservatives or the religious right, but their deep, ingrained assumption that human rationality will win the day over human nature.
    • ZZ Packer
  • A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away
  • Congress is so strange. A man gets up to speak and says nothing. Nobody listens and then everybody disagrees.
    • Boris Marshalov
  • Nothing is easier than spending the public money. It does not appear to belong to anybody. The temptation is overwhelming to bestow it on somebody.
  • A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.
    • Edward Murrow
  • The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough government strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government.
  • A government debt is a government claim against personal income and private property – an unpaid tax bill.
    • Hans F. Sennholz, Debts & Deficits
  • A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.
  • If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government that is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
  • Voting is one of the few things where boycotting in protest clearly makes the problem worse rather than better. **Jane Auer
  • The supply of government exceeds the demand
    • Lewis Lapham
  • The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.
  • Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.
  • I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master. **Thomas Jefferson
  • I know of no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take the power from them, but to inform them by education.
  • If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.
  • The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.
  • Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.
  • You can only govern men by serving them.
    • Victor Cousin

See also

External links

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Source material

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Government
disambiguation
This is a disambiguation page, which lists works which share the same title. If an article link referred you here, please consider editing it to point directly to the intended page.


Government may refer to:


1911 encyclopedia

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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Simple English

A government is a group of people that has the power to rule in a territory, according to the law. This territory may be a country, a state or province within a country, or a region.

  • Governments make laws, rules, and regulations, collect taxes and print money.
  • Governments have systems of justice that list the acts or activities that are against the law and describe the punishments for breaking the law.
  • Governments have a police force to make sure people follow the laws.
  • Governments have diplomats who communicate with the governments of other countries by having meetings. Diplomats try to solve problems or disagreements between two countries, which can help countries to avoid war, make commercial agreements, and exchange cultural or social experiences and knowledge.
  • Governments have a military force such as an army that protects the country if other countries attack, or which can be used to attack and invade other countries.
  • The leader of a government and his or her advisors are called the administration.

Contents

Types of governments

Democracy

  • The most common in the Western world is called democracy. In democracies, all of the people in a country can vote during elections for representatives or political parties that they prefer. The people in democracies can elect representatives who will sit on legislatures such as the Parliament or Congress. Political parties are organizations of people with similar ideas about how a country or region should be governed. Different political parties have different ideas about how the government should handle different problems. Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Monarchy

  • A monarchy is a government ruled by a king or a queen who inherits their position from their family, which is often called the "royal family." There are two types of monarchies: absolute monarchies and constitutional monarchies. In an absolute monarchy, the ruler has no restrictions on his or her commands or powers. In a constitutional monarchy a ruler's powers are restricted by a document called a constitution.

Aristocracy

  • An aristocracy is a government by the "best" people. A person who rules in an aristocracy is an aristocrat. Aristocracy is different from nobility, in that nobility means that one bloodline would rule, an aristocracy would mean that a few or many bloodlines would rule, or that rulers be chosen in a different manner.

Dictatorship

  • Under a dictatorship, the government is run by one person who has absolute power over the people in a country. Originally, the Roman Republic made dictators to lead during time of war. The Roman dictators (and Greek tyrants) were not necessarily bad. The Roman dictators only held power for a limited time. In modern times, a dictator's rule is not restricted by any laws, constitutions, or other social and political institutions. After World War II, many governments in Latin America, Asia, and Africa were controlled by dictators. Examples of dictators include Idi Amin, Muammar al-Qaddafi, and Gamal Abdul Nasser.

Oligarchy

  • An oligarchy is a government ruled by a small group of powerful individuals. These people may divide power equally or not equally. An oligarchy is different from a true democracy because very few people are given the chance to change things. An oligarchy does not have to be hereditary or passed down from father to son. An oligarchy does not have one clear ruler, but several powerful people. Some past examples of oligarchy are the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Apartheid South Africa. A fictional example is the dystopian society of Oceania displayed in the book Nineteen Eighty-Four. Some critics of representative democracy think of the United States as an oligarchy. This view is shared by anarchists.

History and theory of government

The simplest idea of government is those who rule over people and land. This may be as small as a community with some sort of board that looks after the goings on of those who live within it or something a little larger like a village or as big as a continent (like Australia and India).

Those people who rule the land can allow others to own it. It is a deed by government that gives this right in the way that laws describe. Some think they have the right to hold land without government permission. This view is called libertarianism. Others think they can do so together as a group with others if they live in peace, without government. This view is called anarchism.

Almost every place on Earth is connected to one and only one government. Places without government are where people follow traditions instead of government rules, small border disputed areas and the continent of Antarctica, because almost no people live there. For every other place on Earth there is a government that claims sovereign control over it. The word "sovereign" is old and means "control by a King" (sovereign). Governments of villages, cities, counties and other communities are also subordinate to the government of the state or province where they exist, and then to that of the country.

It is from Kings and feudalism that modern governments and nation-states came. The capital of a country, for instance, is where the King kept his assets. From this we get the modern idea of capital in economics. A government is said to regulate trade as well as to rule over land.

Governments also control people and decide things about what morality to accept or punish. In very many countries, there are strict rules about sexual intercourse and drugs that are part of law and offenders are punished for disobeying them.

Tax is how government is paid for in most countries. People who buy, sell, import, invest, own a house or land, or earn money are made to pay some of the money to a government.

There are many theories of how to organize government better. These are called theories of civics. Because government is run by people who can be greedy, many people think leaders must be elected by some kind of democracy. That way, if government does not act nice, they can be replaced in the next election. Still many countries' governments are not a democracy but other forms in which only a few people have power.

There are many theories of how to run a government better, and keep people from hurting each other. These theories are part of politics. No matter how a government is chosen, it must do politics to keep power.

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