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Compare and contrast three different forms of governments.

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There are various forms of government, but political philosophers have often looked at monarchies, oligarchies, and democracies. Neither of the three governments are inherently good or bad. All of the governments govern people through laws. Governments also punish people for breaking these laws. Governments exist to govern the people living...

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There are various forms of government, but political philosophers have often looked at monarchies, oligarchies, and democracies. Neither of the three governments are inherently good or bad. All of the governments govern people through laws. Governments also punish people for breaking these laws. Governments exist to govern the people living within a region and a government can go to war to add to its territory or to defend itself from another government. Aside from these basic similarities, these governments can vary.

A monarchy is ruled by one person. The person can either be male or female. In the past, monarchs have had more power than the current constitutional monarchs do today. A traditional monarch makes laws and administers them according to his or her will. There is usually a line of succession for a monarch to transfer power. Monarchies can be swift to act since there is only one person deciding everything for the country; however, if the person is inept or corrupt, then it can mean poor governance for the state.

An oligarchy is rule by a group of people. The people make the decisions for the entire state. Rule is passed down through a familial line of succession. Oligarchies can be corrupt in only ensuring that their family is enriched at the expense of the people; however, they are more stable than a monarchy because more than one person makes the decisions.

A democracy allows the people to rule themselves. This can be through either direct or indirect elections. Democracies are considered to be peaceful, as people are not willing to risk their lives in war unless there is a good reason. Democracies can also be slow to act, because for action to be taken the majority has to agree. Democracies can also be hard to govern, as the people only vote for their own interests without looking for the long-term benefit of the state. If democracy is carried too far, it can lead to anarchy which is the lack of any government.

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Classically, three different forms of government have been monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy.

In Aristotle's model, these three groups in society—the king, the aristocrats, and the masses—create a triangle that is held in tension. For the society to function well, all three parts have to have some power to keep the power of the other parts in check.

In a monarchy, the king or supreme ruler has the preponderance of power in a state. He (usually a he) is understood to have been put into power by divine grace: God wants this individual to rule. In the Aristotelean model, he usually allies himself with the people (masses) to check the power of the aristocrats or oligarchs. Advantages of a monarchial rule are efficiency; disadvantages include the monarch's temptation to abuse his power and become a tyrant.

In an oligarchy, a small group of wealthy individuals rule the state. If there is a monarch or a representative democracy, this is usually symbolic only: the oligarchs rule behind the scenes. The advantages and disadvantages of an oligarchy are similar to those of a monarchy: efficiency is the advantage, potential abuse of power the downside. Athens, for example, became a democracy after a group of oligarchs seized power and started taxing everyone else into poverty so they could amass more wealth.

In a democracy, the mass of the common people rule the state through electing representatives to enact their will, or, if the state small enough, by giving everyone a say in governance. The advantage of this form of government is that the state is likely to be governed more fairly, with wealth and rights distributed among all the people. Also, because so many people are involved in governance, it is much more difficult for a small group to abuse power. The disadvantage is inefficiency.

As we compare and contrast these forms of government, we find we are pitting efficiency in getting things done versus potential abuse of power.

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The only thing that all forms of government have in common is that they have the authority over the people in their country.  They have the right to commit violence against people within their country if people break the laws, for example.  They have the right to make the laws the people must obey.  Morally, at least, they all have the responsibility for creating a country that will give their people physical security and economic opportunity.

Outside of that, there are major differences between various types of governments.  One form of government is a totalitarian government.  This sort of government tries to control every aspect of its people’s lives.  They essentially have no freedoms or rights that the government must respect.  North Korea has such a government today. On the opposite side of the spectrum are democratic governments like those of the United States or Canada.  In these countries, the governments are elected by the people and must respond to what the people want.  They tend to have laws that limit what the government can do so that the government cannot abuse the people’s rights. 

Within democracies, there are also various kinds of government.  For example, there are social democracies, such as in the Scandinavian countries and other parts of Europe.  These governments feel that they are responsible for the welfare of their citizens.  Therefore, they provide many kinds of services to the citizens.  They give them ample welfare benefits, for example, if they cannot find jobs.  This is very different from a government like that of the United States which is reluctant to provide such services.

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