Comparison of Government Types

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23/09/19 Politics Reference this

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When it comes to liberty provided by government it can be experienced or eliminated entirely based on the type of government a country exhibits. Some offer no liberty while others offer the ultimate in liberty or a spectrum of everything in between. Some governments offer the opportunity to trade in their current oppressive circumstances for a different set of oppressive circumstances. Whatever the situation; it seems natural for individuals to seek out, or at least wish for, liberty and freedom from oppression. In the light of this idea, one can look at any type of government from a liberty perspective as an interesting indicator of a healthy society. The tables below briefly describe a handful of the types of governance, some advantages and disadvantages of each and how they express liberty among citizens.

Form: Dictatorship                           

Example: Nazi Germany

Discussion:

“In a dictatorship there’s just one leader who has total control over the party and the country” (BBC, 2011, np). Propaganda is used to exemplify the dictator as a hero, although there are those who will genuinely provide support (BBC, 2011, np). “In a dictatorship the government tightly controls all aspects of the state and will often ban or tightly control groups and meetings” (BBC, 2011, np).  Dictatorships show no regard for the rights of its citizens and attempt to control all citizens, as opposition to the single party is prohibited and there are no elections (BBC, 2011, np). “The government and state is the most important thing to a dictatorship.” (BBC, 2011, np). “The government in a dictatorship controls every element of people’s lives, including radio, cinema and newspapers” (BBC, 2011, np).

Without rights, the ability to assemble and potentially criticize or organize against government or demonstrate any form of opposition, citizens would be living under an oppressive rule. The heavy policing of information available to citizens, control of individuals behavior, and lack of say so in government affairs means liberty is non-existent under this type of rule.

Advantages 

  • No disagreements as with multiple parties (BBC, 2011, np).
  • No delay in forming or executing legislation.
  • Citizens go about their lives without engaging in the politics of the day.

Disadvantages:

  • Citizens are not free to make many choices and have no acknowledgement of individual rights (BBC, 2011, np).
  • There is no criticism of government and therefore no way to influence government policy (BBC, 2011, np).
  • Citizens can be prevented from knowing the truth (BBC, 2011, np).

Form: Communist State                      

Example: China, North Korea

Discussion:

“Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat” (Engels, 1914/n.d., p. 42). The main tenants of Communism include the demand that all private property be abolished and calls for property and production to be owned and operated by society as a whole (Engels, 1914/n.d., p. 47).  “Above all, it will establish a democratic constitution, and through this, the direct or indirect dominance of the proletariat” (Engles, 1914/n.d., p. 49). This statement appears to be an oxymoron of sorts as any democratic process would ensure liberty for all; yet, the statement also speaks of dominating a particular group of individuals in society. “Democracy would be wholly valueless to the proletariat if it were not immediately used as a means for putting through measures directed against private property and ensuring the livelihood of the proletariat” (Engels, 1914/n.d., p. 49). Other features include limitations on ownership of private property, expropriation over time, confiscation of the property of rebels and emigrants, organization of labor that abolishes competition amongst workers, requirement of the payment of state determined wages, an obligation to work until all private property is abolished, a formation of industrial armies, and construction of communal dwellings for all to live in; among other promises (Engels, 1914/n.d., pp. 49-50). “Society will take all forces of production and means of commerce, as well as the exchange and distribution of products, out of the hands of private capitalists and will manage them in accordance with a plan based on the availability of resources and the needs of the whole society” (Engels, 1914/n.d., p. 50).

In spite of the idea that Communism is an attempt at “liberation of the proletariat”, some may find Communism to be oppressive (Engels, 1914/n.d., p. 42). The inability to own property and receive an inheritance can be considered oppressive to some, as might the requirement to depend on government for practically everything (Engels, 1914/n.d., pp. 49-50). Liberty would suffer if Communism requires seemingly heavy participation, major sacrifices and obligations.

Advantages:

  • “Education of all children, from the moment they can leave their mother’s care, in national establishments at national cost” (Engels, 1914/n.d., p. 49).
  • “Destruction of all unhealthy and jerry-built dwellings in urban districts” (Engels, 1914/n.d., p. 50).
  • “Equal inheritance rights for children born in and out of wedlock” (Engels, 1914/n.d., p. 50).
  • “Concentration of all means of transportation in the hands of the nation” (Engels, 1914/n.d., p. 50).

Disadvantages:

  • Communists “openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions” (Marx & Engels, 1848/n.d., p. 34).
  • “the proletarian revolution will transform existing society gradually and will be able to abolish private property only when the means of production are available in sufficient quantity” (Engels, 1914/n.d., p. 49).
  • “the communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilized countries” (Engels, 1914/n.d., p. 50).
  • “It will have a powerful impact on the other countries of the world, and will radically alter the course of development” (Engels, 1914/n.d., p. 50). “It is a universal revolution and will, accordingly, have a universal range” (Engels, 1914/n.d., p. 50).

Form: Theocratic State                         

Example:

“The Holy See is a nonterritorial entity composed of the Roman Catholic College of Cardinals and the Bishop of Rome (the Pope)” (Megoran, 2009/2009, p. 225).

Discussion:

Theocracy “appears to be a simple concept – clerics ruling a state instead of, say, the general population via a professional class of politicians (democracy) or hereditary potentates advised by appointed specialists (monarchy)” (Megoran, 2009/2009, p. 223). “Based on this definition, there are hardly any theocracies in the world today “ (Megoran, 2009/2009, p. 223).

A modern definition might be, “the multiple patterns of the intertwining of religion in the language, practices, and substance of the politics of modern statehood” (Megoran, 2009/2009, p. 224). The operation of this government is as follows:

             “The Pope, who is elected by the College of Cardinals, governs as ‘Sovereign of the State of Vatican City’, with full legislative, judicial, and executive powers, through a commission of cardinals nominated by him. Vatican City’s system of government, which is highly anomalous, may thus be regarded as both an elective monarchy and an elective theocracy (although its representatives would be unlikely to accept that label).” (Megoran, 2009/2009, pp. 225-226).

Many individuals, particularly of other religious faiths, might find the religious substance of this type of government oppressive and a threat to their individual liberty.

Advantages:

  • Provide a perspective of morality to world legislation that represents a large number of individuals worldwide and without this representation this perspective may go unnoticed (Megoran, 2009/2009, p. 226).
  • Can become a champion for worldwide morality in the face of oppression (Megoran, 2009/2009, pp. 226-227).

Disadvantages:

  • Legislation of morality (Megoran, 2009/2009, p. 224).
  • Limited ownership in a small amount of territory, yet comprised of members all over the world, can mean double representation for those members (Megoran, 2009/2009, pp. 225-226).

Form: Republic                             

Example:

North America, Central America, and South America

Discussion:

“The Framers, or at least the disestablishmentarians among them, believed that in a republic public opinion should control the government, instead of the reverse” (McConnell, 2010, p. 944). According to Adler (n.d.), “In the sphere of political institutions, the most just form of government is a republic with universal suffrage and with a constitution that includes a bill of economic as well as political rights that secures the natural rights of all” (np). Many would find this very advantageous toward liberty. Adler (n.d.) also states that ”The supreme justice of a constitutional democracy resides in its distribution of political liberty and political equality to all, with the exception of infants and the pathologically disabled, as well as in the protection of other natural rights” (np).

It is written in Federalist Paper No. 51 that:

             “It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.” (Madison, 1788/n.d., np)

Here guidance is given that the rights of all classes of citizens be protected. These things would, theoretically, give this style of government high marks in the liberty department. Citizens have the right to operate autonomously within the laws of society. There appears to be a great deal of liberty afforded those who are governed under a representative democracy.

Advantages:

  • Safeguards against oppression of its rulers (Madison, 1788/n.d., np).
  • Rights of minority groups are protected against the majority rule (Madison, 1788/n.d., np).
  • Citizens’ rights allow for a high degree of autonomy within the law (Madison, 1788/n.d., np).

Disadvantages:

  • Some powers surrendered to government for the security of all  (Madison, 1788/n.d., np).

Form: Parliamentary Democracy

Example: Germany and The United Kingdom

Discussion:

The Saylor Foundation (n.d.) states “parliamentary systems are distinct because of the power that they place in the hands of the legislative branch” (p. 3). The Saylor Foundation (n.d.) explains the organization of this type of government:

             “This institutional configuration involves voters selecting parliamentary representatives. The party that wins the largest number of congressional seats then selects the head of government also known as the Prime Minister, Chancellor, or Premier. One characteristic that is specific to this system of government is the split executive. The split executive consists of the head of government and the head of state. As a member of parliament, the head of government controls the legislative process and sets the policymaking agenda. Conversely, the head of state serves as the ceremonial representative of the country.” (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 3)

The Saylor Foundation (n.d.) futher states that:

“Because the Prime Minister is placed in power by members of his own party or a coalition containing his party, there are always commonalities in opinion across various policy areas. The legislature is neither the commander in chief nor does it have the ability to appoint and dismiss members of the cabinet. These are executive responsibilities” (n.d., p. 3)

The idea of proportional representation and accountability of government to its citizens makes this form of government uniquely suited to provide a high degree of liberty for its citizens (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., pp. 3-4).

Advantages:

  • “Because the Prime Minister is placed in power by members of his own party or a coalition containing his party, there are always commonalities in opinion across various policy areas” (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 3).
  • Proportional representation: Not based on majority vote  (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 3).
  • “While the functions of both entities are distinct, the likelihood of cooperation is much higher” (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 4).
  • “the legislature is a more approximate representation of the diverse political interests that are present in society” (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 4).

Disadvantages:

  • “The large number of parties sometimes makes it impossible for a single party to gain the majority that is needed for them to select the Prime Minister” (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 4).
  • “The diversity of opinion created by a large coalition often makes it difficult for its members to come to a consensus on policy decisions” (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 4).
  • “the diversity of parties is sometimes so extreme that it creates significant internal dissension in the legislature, which then strains the fused relationship between the parliament and the executive” (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 4).
  • “Disagreement within parliament can lead to deadlock or a situation where the policymaking process is brought to an abrupt halt until the conflict is resolved” (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 4).

Form: Representative Democracy          

a/k/a “Constitution based Federal Republic”             

Example:  United State of America

Discussion:

“Through the electoral process, one person or a group of people are elected and assigned with the task of making decisions on behalf of the group of citizens that they represent” (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 2). “In a democracy the leader of the party with the most votes is in control, but they still have to answer to their political party, and the voters” (BBC, 2011, np). “In a democracy political parties represent different points of view and compete for the votes of the electorate” (BBC, 2011, np). “In a democracy political power is secured by winning a fair election” (BBC, 2011, np). “In a democracy newspapers are free to print the truth and can criticise the government when mistakes are made or if there’s disagreement” (BBC, 2011, np).

“In a democracy there’s usually less control over the films and books people can enjoy” (BBC, 2011, np). “In a democracy the government has less control over how people spend their time and what they believe” (BBC, 2011, np). “People are free to join clubs, political parties and other groups” (BBC, 2011, np).

In theory, there is a great deal of liberty afforded those who are governed under a representative democracy. Elections hold representatives accountable, open discussion and criticism about the effectiveness of government is allowed and there is very little censorship of art and information (BBC, 2011, np). Citizens are able to operate autonomously within the laws of society.

Advantages:

  • “political representatives are still beholden to the group that they represent, also known as their ‘constituency’” (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 2).
  • Citizens regularly evaluate their representatives’ performance through elections which provides for accountability (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 2).
  • “While voters continue to engage in their everyday lives, politicians are in the thick of congressional debates” (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 2).

Disadvantages:

  • “the power of the individual is diminished slightly” (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 2).
  • Relies on trust of the representative, who may or may not be in touch with what their constituents need (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 2).
  • The voters may respond to a perception of the adequacy on the representative’s performance (The Saylor Foundation, n.d., p. 2).

Form: Constitutional Monarchy                          

Example:

Great Britain, Australia, Japan (British Monarchist League, n.d., np).

Discussion:

“A constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a written (i.e., codified), unwritten (i.e., uncodified) or blended constitution” (British Monarchist League, n.d., np). The British Monarchist League (n.d.) explains that:

            “Most constitutional monarchies employ a parliamentary system in which the Monarch may have strictly Ceremonial duties or may have Reserve Powers, depending on the constitution. They have a directly or indirectly elected prime minister who is the head of government, and exercises effective political power.” (British Monarchist League, n.d., np)

“Today constitutional monarchy is almost always combined with representative democracy, and represents (as a theory of civics) a compromise between total trust in the political class, and in well-bred and well-trained monarchs raised for the role from birth” (British Monarchist League, n.d., np).

A constitutional monarchy with a representative government would be very effective at securing liberty for the people particularly because it would be held accountable for actions by its citizens (British Monarchist League, n.d., np).

Advantages:

  • “Constitutional monarchy allows for certain powers of the monarch to be limited and balanced by an elected body in the form of a Parliament of elected ministers, and is therefore a democratic process drawn upon an enlightened basis for government” (Brittish Monarchist League, n.d., np).
  • “monarchs do not represent specific political views, and that they provide stability or act as a symbol of the state or nation” (Brittish Monarchist League, n.d., np).

Disadvantages:

  • Monarchs are not elected (Brittish Monarchist League, n.d., np).
  • Monarch has little power and the Prime Minister actually governs the country (British Monarchist League, n.d., np).
  • Monarch engages in a life-long commitment (Brittish Monarchist League, n.d., np).

Upon discovery of certain types of government there appears to be a distinct line of demarcation between what type of governments offer liberty as a key feature and those that offer oppression. The terms democratic, constitutional, representative and republic appear to be at the high end of the spectrum of liberty. The terms dictatorship, communism or socialism appear to be absent of or low on liberty and in some cases appear to tend toward oppression. In the case of Communism or Socialism it appears that the loss of liberty is not acknowledged directly and painted over with the promise of a better society. Before we label these governments as effective, thought should be given to whether or not individuals will want to give up the required liberties in order to make these types of governance successful.

References

  • BBC. (2011). Democracy and dictatorship: Key differences [Chart]. Retrieved from http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/wjec/history/pdf/democracy_or_dictatorship.pdf
  • British Monarchist League. (n.d.). Constitutional Monarchy. Retrieved February 12, 2019, from http://www.monarchist.org.uk/constitutional-monarchy.html
  • Engels, F. (n.d.). The principles of Communism. In K. Marx & F. Engels (Authors), S. Moore (Trans.), & Marxists.org (Comp.), Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels February 1848 (pp. 42-54) [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf (Original work published 1914)
  • Madison, J. (n.d.). Federalist paper no. 51. In Yale Law School: The Lillian Goldman Library (Comp.), The Avalon project: Documents in law, history and diplomacy. Retrieved from http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed51.asp (Original work published 1788)
  • Marx, K., & Engels, F. (n.d.). Manifesto of the Communist party (S. Moore, Trans.). In K. Marx & F. Engels (Authors), S. Moore (Trans.), & Marxists.org (Comp.), Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels February 1848 (pp. 14-34) [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf (Original work published 1848)
  • McConnell, M. W. (2010). Religion and Its Relation to Limited Government. Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy33(3), 943–952. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=51917839&site=ehost-live
  • Megoran, N. (2009). Theocracy. In R. Kitchen & N. Thrift (Eds.), International encyclopedia of human geography (Vol. 11) [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/nick.megoran/pdf/theocracy.pdf (Excerpted from International encyclopedia of human geography, Vol. 11, pp. 223-228, 2009, Elsevier)
  • The Saylor Foundation. (n.d.). Types of democracy. Retrieved from https://resources.saylor.org/wwwresources/archived/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/POLSC221-4.1.5-TypesDem-FINAL.pdf
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