The Different Types of Government


A government is the institution that rules and administers an organized community, usually a nation. The most common form of government is a constitutional republic, but there are many different types of governments that exist around the world. These differences arise from differences in the philosophy of a given country, the way it organizes itself, and how it acquires and distributes its power. During history, new ideas about how to govern have led to changes in the structure of governments.

The first thing to understand about a government is that it serves as a medium for the distribution of authority and the enforcement of its policy. The most important of these policies are the laws that a government passes to regulate various aspects of its citizens’ lives, such as property rights and public safety. Governments also play a key role in providing for their citizens. Most nations provide social programs, such as welfare and medical insurance, that help alleviate poverty in their societies. These social programs are not always popular and often generate debate about the proper role of a government in its people’s lives.

Governments typically organize themselves into distinct institutions, called branches, with their own powers, functions, and responsibilities. The separation of powers is the principle that prevents one branch of government from dominating another. A checks and balances system, the principle that each branch of a government has overlapping responsibilities and is subject to scrutiny by other branches, further ensures that the government does not become too powerful.

In the United States, for example, the constitution grants the president the power to veto laws passed by Congress. This system helps to limit the president’s ability to pass laws that might damage the rights of a majority of citizens. In addition, the Framers of the U.S. Constitution designed the policymaking process for making law to be long and complex, a design that slows down the ability of a single person to make changes in the law. This allows citizens to lobby legislators and try to persuade them to change their position on a particular policy before it is implemented.

Most governments are multiparty systems in which multiple political parties compete for the right to select and run candidates for office and control government offices. In a democracy, this competition is open and honest. The parties’ competing ideologies influence the overall philosophy of a government.

In modern times, there are two main types of government: democracies and totalitarian regimes. There are also a number of hybrid forms of government. In the United States, for example, all but one state, Nebraska, has a bicameral legislature with a smaller upper chamber called the Senate and a larger lower house called the House of Representatives. The two chambers, together with the executive branch and judiciary, make state laws and fulfill other governing responsibilities. The state executive organization varies widely among states, though, depending on how each state chooses to govern itself.