A government is composed of a person or a group of people who are vested with the political power to make and enforce laws in a sovereign state. The roots of this political system trickles down to three important levels, namely, the local, provincial or national level. Each of these levels aims to govern and administer that area.
A government is a body that has the power to both create the law (hence the term ‘lawmakers’ for members of a government or parliament), and to enforce the rules (ie to be the ‘rulers’).
We generally think of countries or states when we talk about the government, but any organization can have a government, which may be referred to as a board of directors in a corporate, a governing council in non-profit organization, a board of governors in a school, or a council of elders in a tribal or religious organization.
The larger an organization, the more complex its legal and regulatory systems become. This can lead to bureaucracy and corruption, but it has become the norm in most societies, supported by social contract theories against which anarchists have been unable to make much headway.
In academia, government structure and operations form part of the administrative studies syllabus, with Public Administration studying local, regional and national governments, and Business Administration studying the private sector.
What is the Role of the Government?
Governments are tasked with creating and enforcing rules and laws; maintaining security and public order; providing share services such as transportation networks, schools and hospitals; and raising taxes in order to pay for shared services.
Government: How is it formed?
Different types of government are formed in different ways:
- Democracy: In this governing system, political parties contest with each other to win power by seeking votes through universal franchise. A party has to win the majority to form a government. In a multi-party system, numerous small parties may join together to form a coalition government, particularly if a single party remains in minority.
- Dictatorship: Such a government is formed without the consent of the people. A self-appointed leader assumes political power. The government can be formed by a coup staged by the military, following which the existing laws and constitutional provisions are replaced by an absolute rule. The rule of an autocratic monarch is also an example of dictatorship. He may have formed the government by conquering that land and continues to enjoy unrestricted powers. A communist government that does not follow a parliamentary system based on the mandate of people is also a form of dictatorship.
Types of Government
The various types of governing systems are:
- Constitutional Monarchy: There is a single ruler, but his/her power is limited by the constitution. The role of the King or Queen is mostly ceremonial. The elected government makes the rules. E.g. United Kingdom.
- Republic: A system in which the head of state is not a hereditary position. E.g. India.
- Constitutional Republic: A government that is composed of representatives who are all voted into power by the people (ie the executive and legislative bodies are the same).
- Democracy: Citizens of various constituencies elect their representatives. E.g. The United States of America.
- Dictatorship: One person rules over the entire country. Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Tito in Yugoslavia and Suharto in Indonesia were dictators.
- Monarchy: A state that is ruled by one family, with one person on the throne at a time.
- Oligarchy: A rule by a small group of people having similar interests and kinship ties. Although Russia is technically a democracy, it is viewed by many as being in reality an oligarchy.
- Aristocracy: A rule by that section of society which is considered ‘noble’ by birth.
- Plutocracy: Any form of government that is primarily composed of the rich and the wealthy, such as in Ancient Rome.
- Theocracy: A governing system set up by members of a religious sect, such as in Islamic Iran or the Catholic Empire.
- Anarchy: A form of governance without government, where citizens self-organize.
In the contemporary world, political systems have become more democratic. Also, the governments of different countries ally with other nations to form inter-governmental organizations.
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