9 of the Most Common Types of Government Systems Explained

Types of Government Systems

Government systems are the engines that run countries and nations all across the world. There is a great diversity of these government systems that help people manage their lives on a daily basis. While it is easy for people to be accustomed to and familiar with the system that is prevalent in their own country, across the world many people continually wonder and ask, what are the different types of government systems? 

There are many different types of government systems. These include monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, aristocracy, totalitarianism, communist, socialist and a whole lot more.  In this article we explore 9 of the most common types of government systems in depth.

Why Are There Different Types of Government Systems? 

Different types of government systems exist due to a variety of reasons. The biggest reason is due to differing opinions and beliefs on what is the best system. It’s hard to get people to agree on anything and the way a government is constructed and operated is no different. Other factors that create a difference in government systems include: 

  • Different beliefs: Some groups of people and beliefs make them think that their system of government makes the most sense for them while others may frown at it.
  • History: Most of the time a nation will run according to the way it has run throughout history and not change. The government system that founded a nation and allows it to continue to operate is the one people are most used to. 

When assessing why one country has their specific government system it would be fair to look at the country’s historical background as well as other factors to better understand why this system is prevalent in this location. 

1) Monarchy 

A monarchy is a government system where a single person is the leader of the nation or state. The leader is appointed and their term lasts for their entire life. When the leader is drawing to the end of his life or dies unexpectedly the successor who replaces them is a member in their royal line. Basically their family will rule and govern the people continually and when one dies, the other steps up. 

This succession happens in order, so if the leader of the monarchy was a man with three sons, after he died the rule of the nation would pass to his first born son. Throughout history this has been one of the most common government systems and is the one most often thought of when we think of government rule pre 19th and 20th century. 

There are two types of monarchy systems

  1. Constitutional Monarchy
  2. Absolute Monarchy 

In a constitutional monarchy, the ruler has limited power that is written and expressed in a constitution. While Absolute Monarchies are when the ruler has unlimited power. 

There are still a good amount of monarchies still run today in our world. 

2) Oligarchy

An oligarchy is a government system where a group of individuals form a group and rule over a nation. This group is able to rule together due to an aspect they possess that gives them power over others in their ruling state. 

This is in the form of things such as their wealth, ethnicity or race, and family line just to name a few examples. Within Oligarchies, there is no representation or influence by the people. Oligarchies are not democratic in any way as the collection of rulers possess total authoritative power

Modern day Iran is considered by some to be an oligarchy. The country is ruled by a group of individuals who share similar views as religious leaders. 

Further Reading: What’s the Difference Between an Oligarchy and a Aristocracy?

3) Democracy 

A government system where people are able and encouraged to elect their leadership themselves is known as a democracy. 

The goal of a democratic society is to prevent the abuses of power as well as empower fairness. In theory what makes a democracy great is that the elected leader is elected by the majority of the country/state. Because the leaders have to win the majority vote, the candidates who run for election have to make sure that they adhere to the wants and needs of the people. 

The most well known example of a democracy is the modern United States of America. The country was founded after individuals rebelled against the British monarchy with the hopes of establishing a government where citizens had a say in who ruled the nation. The only time citizen laws are taken away is if martial law is in effect.

4) Aristocracy 

Aristocracies or an Aristocratic government system, is a form of government that has a small ruling class at the top of leadership. The rich, elite group rules the country over individuals who are of lower socioeconomic status. 

An aristocracy may sound similar in definition to an oligarchy but there is a key difference. An oligarchy is “the rule by the few”, while an aristocracy is “the rule by the best”. 

Aristocracies are founded upon the belief that riches and oftentimes, a certain race gives individuals the power and right to rule. Hence, why in aristocratic societies individuals who possess great wealth or are a certain race are able to rule over less privileged and wealthy people. 

Aristocracy as a system of government has fizzled out and has been dormant as a system of government since the early 20th century. 

5) Totalitarianism 

A totalitarian government system is a system where a political party is in control of the lives of citizens completely. Both public and private matters are controlled by the ruling party and must adhere to their ruling ideology. 

In a totalitarian society the ruling person or peoples are chosen with the absence of an alternative ruling option.  A totalitarian society rules based on an ideology. 

A contemporary example of a totalitarian government system is the country of North Korea. Under the command of leader Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean government imposes a belief and philosophy of natural excellence in that their nation is a triumph above the rest of the world and there must be great reverence toward their military might. 

6) Communist 

Communism - Different Types of Government Systems

A communist government system seeks to eliminate socioeconomic class by removing private ownership and distributing goods to people as needed. This system is run most of the time by an authoritarian ruling system. 

In a communist system there is no private property and nearly all public, and private goods are controlled by the ruling state. 

The country of Cuba is a long running communist country with the system outlined and stated in their own constitution. 

7) Socialist 

A socialist society seeks to have citizens share economic resources under the provision of the democratically elected ruler. 

Socialism or a socialist government system is a system where all citizens own equal factors of public property and goods. The socialist system seeks to allow citizens to cooperate and receive full benefits of the country’s economic benefits.  

It is easy to get socialism and communism mixed up as they sound very similar, however there are a few key differences to remember. 

  1. Socialist countries are often democratic in some form while communist countries are not democratic at all.
  2. In Communist countries all resources are owned by the government while in socialist countries individuals own some personal property. 
  3. Class distinction still remains in some forms in socialst countries even as the wealth is relatively similar between citizens. In communist countries class is virtually eliminated and there is no ability for citizens to earn more than their counterparts. 

Scandinavian countries like Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway are known for their socialist government systems. In these systems they use socialism to create a shared group of their resources while implementing elements of free market capitalism to create private wealth. 

8) Dictatorship 

A dictatorship is a system where a single person rules over a country by force. A dictatorship is the opposite of a democracy. Instead of choosing a leader out of a set of options, instead a leader appoints themself in power and keeps power through brutal means. 

The difference between a dictatorship and a totalitarian government system is that a dictator either appoints themself or forces the people to choose them. The rule of Adolf Hitler as leader of Germany is the most well known example of a dictatorship. 

Under his rule, the country of Germany was subjected to the complete power and authority of Adolf Hitler leading him to carry out with his leadership gross crimes against humanity. 

9) Colonialism

Colonialism - Types of Government Systems

A colonial government system is based on a country moving outward to new territories and conquering them. This system is based on conquering new territories and spaces in an effort to take resources and aid for a country. 

Historically colonial government systems were used along with monarchies. Countries like Spain and Britain would launch out into the new world with fleets of explorers and soldiers discovering new territories to use for their purposes. In fact it was this exact colonial system that led to the foundation of the United States of America. 

What is The Best System of Government? 

When analyzing the different government systems, there is no one option that is objectively better than others. Although it is fun to compare and contrast the systems with each other, you must remember that everyone thinks their system is right from their point of view, and it is good to try to see the point of view of others.  When assessing each government system one should be mindful of all of the factors that have led to a nation adopting their system and the purpose it plays for that country. 

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