Although eNotes educators cannot complete students’ assignments, we love helping them choose a topic and create an outline. Let’s begin by looking at an overview of the five main political systems in the world today: democracy, republic, monarchy, dictatorship, and communism. I’ll give you a few examples of countries that use these systems and, in the end, some ideas for writing your paper.
Democracies have two major variants. They can be representative democracies, like the United States, where voters elect leaders to represent their interests; or, they can be direct democracies, like Switzerland, where citizens themselves vote for policies by referendum. Direct democracies are uncommon in the modern world, but it wasn't always this way. The first and most famous example of a direct democracy is Ancient Greece.
Most modern democracies are also republics. A republic is a system of government where the citizens are entitled to choose who governs them. Today, the differences between republics and democracies are largely theoretical. Democracies can fall victim to factionalism and majority rule in such a way as to exclude the wills and rights of the minority. Republics, by contrast, should include representatives of both majority and minority groups in order to minimize the effects of class distinctions. In practice, most democracies do this as well. In the United States, congressional districts allow citizens with presumably-similar characteristics to vote for representatives whose goals best align with their own. Like democracies, republics usually have free elections, free-market economies, private property rights, and protections to support individual liberties.
A monarchy is a political system wherein the head of state is an individual sovereign who gained their position through heredity. Monarchy is the oldest political system in the world, having begun in the Middle East somewhere around 3000 BCE. The earliest monarchies were absolute monarchies, governments where the ruler has unlimited power to create and enforce laws, collect taxes, and wage war. There are few absolute monarchies in the world today, and most are located in the Middle East (Eswatini and the Vatican are the two exceptions). Most modern monarchies are constitutional monarchies. Constitutional monarchs have far less authority than absolute monarchs, and some serve as little more than a national symbol. Political decision making and authority within constitutional monarchies is vested in a democratically-elected parliament. There are few practical differences between constitutional monarchies and republics other than the largely-ceremonial role of the monarch. Sweden and the United Kingdom are examples of constitutional monarchies.
A dictatorship is a form of autocracy, a political system where one person has ultimate control over every aspect of their citizens’ lives. Similar to an absolute monarchy, supreme leadership in dictatorships may be hereditary, as it is in North Korea, but it doesn’t have to be. Some dictatorships are created when a coup d’état removes an existing government from power and takes control themselves. Examples of military dictatorships include Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, and Thailand. Some dictatorships begin as democracies and change to autocracies when the leader refuses to relinquish power. Turkey’s current government appears to be making this transition.
Communism is a political theory wherein the people own the means of production and there are no class distinctions. In practice, most communist states are those governed by a single, centralized party whose legislative body protects, but does not represent, citizens’ interests. Unlike representative democracies, there is no specific constituency assigned to members of parliament in communist states. Nevertheless, countries using the communist political system identify themselves as republics under the guise of leadership of the people, by the people. Current communist-governed republics include China, Cuba, and Vietnam.
Writing about a political system:
It’s difficult to know how broadly or specifically you should approach a topic as vast as a political system. For a two page assignment, you should expect to write around 1,000 words. I recommend that you use an outline to help you organize your information and make sure you cover the most significant aspects of the system you choose. If you have space remaining, you can add more detail to sections you're particularly interested in. Here’s an example of an outline for a two-page paper:
- Introduction and thesis statement.
- What is your argument? Is this an effective or ineffective political system? Why? Relate the information in the following sections to your argument.
- A brief history of the system.
- Consider including prominent leaders or philosophies that shaped the system. For example, American representative democracy owes a great deal to The Federalist Papers.
- Where and when did it begin? Are there any famous examples of this system?
- Are there variations within the system, i.e., direct democracy versus representative democracy?
- Where is it used today, if it is used today?
- The system’s political process. How are leaders chosen?
- Are elections free, or are they fixed?
- The system’s economic practices.
- Is it capitalist? Socialist?
- Do citizens have private property rights?
- The system’s social structure.
- Is there a predominant religion? Is there religious freedom?
- Does the system guarantee civil rights and liberties?
- Disadvantages of the system.
- Use information and examples from your previous sections.
- Summarize your arguments.