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What are the similarities and differences between a state government and a regime?

The similarities and differences between a state government and a regime are minute. State governments and regimes both refer to the ruling body of polity or territory. While they can often be used interchangeably, a state government tends to refer to a more legitimate or democratic form of rule than a regime, which often signifies a totalitarian leadership structure.

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As other Educators have pointed out, the differences and similarities between a regime and a state government are minute.

In a sense, a state government can be a regime, and a regime can be a state government. A regime refers to a type of government. Of course, a state government is a type of government. A state government refers to the various officials who operate and manage a state or country.

"State government" has a rather innocuous implication. "Regime" tends to carry odious overtones. You might want to look at George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address. Remember, he’s giving this speech a few months after the 9/11 attacks. In the address, Bush uses the term “regime” to talk about the governments of North Korea and Iraq. If Bush had used the word “government,” perhaps North Korea and Iraq would have come across as less threatening. It seems like Bush deliberately employed the word “regime” to drive home the danger of the North Korean and Iraqi governments.

Although, you could find examples in which "government" is used as a pejorative. You might want to review Bill Clinton’s 1996 State of the Union Address. During his speech, he declared, “The era of big government is over.” This sentiment makes it seem like “government” is not so great either. Republicans seem to agree. They, too, tend to view “government” as a bad word.

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The difference between a state government and a regime is a subtle one. In fact, the words themselves can be used interchangeably in many contexts. Both terms refer to the body that makes and enforces laws within a polity. A regime is part of a state government, and a state government can be run by a regime.

The difference has to do with the connotation usually associated with these two terms. A state government has an air of legitimacy to it. It is what is often used to describe a democratically elected body or one that serves its people. A state government usually derives its power from a constitution and has systems in place that prevent it from making capricious, unlawful, or arbitrary decisions and actions.

A regime, on the other hand, has a negative connotation. It is often a pejorative that is used to refer to an illegitimate or totalitarian government. Rather than serving its citizens, a regime is set up to serve the needs and wishes of those in power. Regimes are less beholden to the rule of law. While leaders of a regime may still hold ostensible democratic elections, these are often a sham and viewed by those in power as an inconvenience rather than an important democratic process.

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The Oxford English Dictionary defines a regime as "a government, especially an authoritarian one." It defines a state government as follows:

The government of a nation or state; now specifically (also with capital initial(s)) the government of one of the states of the United States of America, the Commonwealth of Australia, etc. (sometimes as distinct from the federal or national government).

The two terms do not align perfectly, so we need to look at what each one connotes or implies. The terms are alike in referring to the governance of a country or territory.

A regime, however, implies a country ruled by a top-down, tightly controlled central government. An authoritarian government is not usually democratic: it does not reflect the will of the governed but instead imposes its will on them, whether they like it or not.

In contrast, the existence of state governments implies a dispersal of power away from central authority and into local hands. The definition's examples of state governments in democratic nations, such as the US and Australia, suggest that state governance is a bottom-up, democratic affair in which the sources of power are local and closer to the people being ruled. While state governments certainly have the potential to be authoritarian, they nevertheless represent a dispersal of power that works against centralized authority. 



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The similarities and differences between state government and a regime are varied and subtle.

When a large territory is united under one government, yet has divisions of smaller territories within itself, you have the setting for two sets of laws.

In a state, the rules of the law are dictated by the state.  As long as they do not go against the rules of the country, they are the laws that are enforced. For example, a federal law may give a person the right to own crayons.  The state may set up a controlling law which says that ownership is fine, but you may not use them in a state-owned establishment.  The state accepts the federal law but limits it within its own borders.

In a regime, there are still the two sets of laws.  The difference being that the larger territory defines the laws of the smaller one.  The federal government says, “You may have crayons, and since you are a part of OUR country, you may use them wherever you please.”  The smaller division of the country has no power to restrict crayons within areas particular to it.

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