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Different Forms of Government

Throughout history, there have been many different countries and societies, and those populations could never function properly without a form of leadership. Government is important with running a country; no civilization has lasted without some kind of decree from leader(s). The number of Governments that have existed at some point in time is big one, but today an absolute monarchy, a constitutional monarchy, a direct democracy, and an authoritarian Government will be highlighted. Government is an important part of countries, and out of the many civilizations in the world there are many kinds of Government.

Absolute Monarchy was a Government with a sovereign leader who came into power by marriage or offspring; they had complete control with no limitations from constitution or law. They were considered the head of state and head of Government. Most Absolute Monarchies followed the Divine Right of the Kings - The Divine Right implies to everyone that the Monarch in power is a representative of God, and by default, didn’t have to answer to anybody but God. This was a factor in keeping the people under control, and took away the right to question the Monarch’s authority. Although it is very clear that Monarchs of Absolute Monarchies are free to do anything with their authority that they want, patterns in history have proved that to achieve true Absolute Monarchy, the support of others was necessary. Monarchs were often influenced by or shared power with other interests. The church was incredibly influential, and some power was shared with the clergy because of their strong influence on the citizens. Nobility could play a role as well. If there was enough opposition on something the Monarch did, power could be reduced. There have been quite a few Absolute Monarchies throughout history, and the ‘strongest’ one was Louis XIV of France. There was no other power than him - meaning there were no legislative, judicial, or executive powers. No matter what he said, even if it was sentencing someone to death, it was final. The Czars of Russia are another great example; until 1905, the Czars had complete power over their subjects. The idea of Divine Right and the power of the Czars was so deeply relevant in their history and culture that it took a long time for absolutism to be abolished. Absolutism by itself can be described a lot alike to what an Absolute Monarchy is - the ruling individual has ‘absolute’ power, with no legal, electoral or other confrontation to that power. However, an Absolute Monarchy does not exist anymore, but the format of a Monarchy still remains.
A Constitutional Monarchy is sometimes called a ‘limited monarchy’, and just like it suggests, it’s because the monarchy has limitations and other powers at work. With a Constitutional Monarchy, an elected or hereditary Monarch is the head of state (not a sole source of power). There is a also Government that works along with the Queen or King. A majority of Constitutional Monarchies have a parliamentary system where the Monarch is the head of state, but there is a Prime Minister as head of Government. To be clear - even though it is called a Limited Monarchy the Monarch still has power; they are the head of the executive branch. Looking back into history, the first official Constitutional Monarchy were the Hittites - ancient Anatolian people alive amidst the Bronze Age. Their king or queen was required to apportion their power with the Panku, which was an assembly. This Panku could easily be compared to a legislature today. Different kinds of noble families made up this assembly.

Direct Democracy is where the citizens are included in the decisions the Government makes, but the Government is still in charge. Sometimes, this term can be used for electing representatives in a direct vote as opposed to voting for an electing body, Electoral College, etc. There are many forms of Direct Democracy, and most are based around the popular vote of a political decision. Mandatory Referendums are held only when a referendum vote is required by law, like constitutions. Referendums of Government Authorities are where a president, cabinet, or legislature decides to take a popular vote on an issue. Citizens’ Initiatives are where something can be backed up by a certain amount of signatures, allowing the electorate to vote on political things proposed by a group, on bills approved by a legislature but not yet in action, or on laws that are already in force. In history, the Athens were one of the first to use Direct Democracy. Decisions were made by groups of around 1,000 male citizens. These were called people’s assemblies. As history went on, Swiss towns and some town meetings in early American colonies and states used it. Early US states began to use systems where constitutions or constitutional amendments were officially valid by referendums. Switzerland and many US states included direct democracy in their constitutions during the 19th century, and then Germany and a few others adopted it in World War 1. Modern Democracy (our Direct Democracy today) is said to have originated from the ideas of more political representation and voting rights - people wanted to be more involved in their Government.  Modern democracy was not developed from the idea of assembly democracy like the Athens, but that is a fundament in the scheme of things.

Authoritarianism is a Government with strong central power and very few political freedoms. Individual (the people’s freedoms) are under the control of the state, and there is no constitution to follow A Spanish sociologist and political scientist named Juan José Linz put Authoritarianism into 4 distinguishing traits; 1. There is political pluralism in place for political groups, legislatures, political parties, etc, ensuring that all powerful controlling groups are on the same page. 2. A fundamental acceptance of an authority (the identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat "easily recognizable societal problems"). 3. Oppression and restraints on opposing political sides and Anti-Government sides. 4. Executive power not completely defined, and often very unstable (being whatever the leaders want at that time). Dictatorship is not a required part of Authoritarianism, it’s only an optional regime of the Government. Dictatorship is beyond only control of the Country, it’s control of the people as well (sometimes compared to brainwashing the population). They are similar, but differences like the aggression Dictatorships hold towards opposing side and political crackdowns (which in the past can be by sending opposing people to labour camps, or even killing them) separates them.

There are many kinds of Government, and they all differ. Some may be controversial, and some may be considered too relaxed, but in the end they all roughly do what they’re meant to - guide the people. These Governments have all developed overtime, and some are older than the others. Government is an important part of Countries, and out of the many civilizations in the world there are many kinds of Government.


Rhiannon R

June, 2017