The Different Types of Government
A government is a system of people, laws and officials that defines and controls the country you live in. It makes the rules for what goes on in public life and regulates interactions between citizens. It also takes care of things that are too big for private businesses to handle, like national security and education.
People elect representatives to city councils, state legislatures and Congress. These bodies make laws and raise money by imposing taxes on income, property and sales. They then draft budgets to determine how the funds they collect will be spent on services for the public. Local governments use the money they receive to maintain police and fire departments, schools, libraries, and parks. State and national governments allocate funds for higher education, road maintenance, health care and wildlife management.
The Framers of the Constitution designed a government that limited its powers to protect citizens’ liberty and rights. They wanted to ensure that the will of the majority was reflected in the daily decisions of government. They also wanted to limit the ability of a minority to hold power for too long and refuse to give up control. This is known as republicanism and forms the basis of many of our democratic principles.
Governments are usually divided into different branches that have distinct powers, functions and responsibilities. A government with a clear division of these powers is known as a democratic republic or constitutional monarchy. A government with no clear separation of these powers is known as an autocracy or a tyranny.
Some people believe that governments are necessary to provide basic services like food, water and housing. Others believe that the private sector should be able to provide these services without interference from government. Yet still others believe that the only way for society to survive is through a strong central authority that protects its citizens from foreign invasion, economic collapse and natural disaster. The choice that a society makes about which of these values it values more highly will help determine the type of government it chooses to create and implement.
While some scholars have sought to classify the different forms of government, these attempts have been difficult, as there is much overlap between the various categories. Most political scientists agree that there are at least three types of government: constitutional monarchies, constitutional republics and tyrannies.
Most people in the United States think that government should play a large role in their lives. Large majorities of Democrats and Democratic leaners say that the government should have a major role in all 10 areas that we ask about in our survey. Republicans are less uniform in their support of a government role, but half or more say that the government should have a major or very important role in nine out of the ten areas.