Comparing Government Systems

Six Forms of Government

There are different types of government found throughout the world. Here we will focus on six of them. We can put these governments into one of three groups.

  • Rule by the One
  • Rule by the Few
  • Rule by the Many

These governments can also be classified as having limited or an unlimited government. Limited governments have laws that limit their power. They only have powers that are given to them by the people they govern. Unlimited governments have no limits to their power.

Monarchy

Rule by the One/Unlimited government

A single ruler exercises supreme power based on heredity or divine right.

ADVANTAGES

  • Decisions are carried out by his or her word alone.
  • A monarch can inspire great loyalty to hold a nation together.
  • A living monarch knows who is next in line for the throne.

DISADVANTAGES

  • A monarch with absolute power may make poor choices.
  • A successful monarch may be followed by an unsuccessful monarch.
  • It is very difficult for any single monarch to run a modern nation.

Dictatorship

Rule by the One/Unlimited government

A single person or group has supreme power through control of the military and police.

ADVANTAGES

  • A single leader can get things done efficiently.
  • Peace and order can usually be easily maintained because the military and police are under the dictator’s control.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Citizens who oppose the dictator can be jailed, tortured or even killed without cause.
  • Citizens’ rights can easily be abused.
  • May cause riots or civil war in an attempt to oust dictator.

Theocracy

Rule by the Few/Unlimited government

Government headed by religious leaders.

ADVANTAGES

  • A single state-supported religion encourages political and social unity.
  • Leaders make decisions in line with their citizens’ moral values and beliefs.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Citizens who do not believe in the religion of the majority can have their rights abused.
  • Religious warfare can happen between groups fighting to control the government.
  • Enforcing religious unity can be difficult.

Single-Party State

Rule by the few/Unlimited Government

The constitution allows only one political party to govern.

ADVANTAGES

  • Easier to pass laws and carry out government programs.
  • Avoids bickering between different political parties.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Party members may have views different than citizens which can lead to social unrest.
  • Citizens with different political views can be shut out of the political process.

Parliamentary Democracy

Rule by the Many/Limited Government

Voters elect lawmakers to represent them in the nation’s parliament and to choose a prime minister.

ADVANTAGES

  • Making laws is easier because prime minister and legislature come from the same party.
  • It is very difficult for any single monarch to run a modern nation.

DISADVANTAGES

  • The prime minister is very powerful.
  • Can be unstable because a vote of no confidence can happen at any time.
  • The prime minister may lack the public support of an elected president.

Presidential Democracy

Rule by the Many/Limited Government

Voters choose a president to lead the government as head of the executive branch.

ADVANTAGES

  • A president’s term is more stable than a prime minister’s.
  • Presidents may be more responsive to their citizens.
  • Executive and legislative branches are separate—each watches over the other.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Nearly impossible to remove an unpopular president.
  • Can be hard to reach agreement when president and legislature are from different parties.
  • Some presidents become all-powerful and authoritarian.