Different Types of Government Around the World

When it comes to types of government, it’s anything but simple. Governments are ever-evolving, which means national governments are composed of several types. To help simplify, explore examples of different types of governments found around the globe.

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Basic Types of Government

When it comes to types of government, five specific types come to the forefront. Most forms of government are some variation of one of these.

Authoritarian

In an authoritarian regime, the government has total control. Authoritarian regimes have typically earned this control by forceful means. While this seems pretty cut and dried, it is anything but. Authoritarian regimes aren’t always easy to recognize. They might still hold elections and have branches of government, but only a small group holds the power, not the people. A good worldly example of an authoritarian government is Cuba.

Democracy

Another big government type is democracy. In direct contrast to an authoritarian government, a democracy exists when the people hold the power. Different types of democracy include direct and representative. If you’ve ever wondered about the United States’ government type, democracy is your answer. But they’re not the only example of democracy in the world. Canada, Sweden, and Columbia are a few other examples.

Monarchy

A monarchy isn’t as common as a democracy, but you still hear about them. In a monarchy, one family rules the roost, so to speak. And their title is passed down through the generations.

However, much like a democracy, who is in charge isn’t totally cut and dried.

In an absolute monarchy, the king or ruler is in control of all the government. The more common constitutional monarchy has a royal family, but they serve mostly as ceremonial figures. As an example, think of the United Kingdom and Queen Elizabeth. She is the queen, but the parliament has most government control.

Oligarchy

Similar to a monarchy, an oligarchy places power in a few people. However, titles aren’t passed down through the family or even from one person. Instead, it could be a group of people such as a country’s wealthy. The power might be passed down from one family to another, but it has nothing to do with bloodlines. Examples through history include China and the Soviet Union.

Totalitarian

When you think of a totalitarian government, it takes absolute power to the extreme. These leaders control not only the government but the personal lives of their people. Citizens have no say in government, and the totalitarian regime is 100% in charge. This type of government is forceful and extreme. Remember Hitler and Nazi Germany? That was totalitarianism at play!

Types of Government Found Around the World & in History

While the top five might be the types of governments you hear the most about, that list is by far complete. Rather, you’ll find several different types of government that exist. Some of these types fall into a larger category, while others are completely unique. Check out other types of government seen around the world and through history.

Anarchy

Anarchy isn’t a type of government; it’s actually the absence of one. In an anarchist society, a central governing body doesn’t exist. Many times, anarchy will take center stage when a government collapses. A few historical examples include Albania in 1997 and Germany after the first world war.

Aristocracy

To remember aristocracy, think aristocrat. In an aristocracy, the wealthy or noble hold the power. These privileged few leaders make up the ruling class or elite. Historically, Ancient Greece had an aristocratic government. A modern example is the royal family in the U.K., and to some aspects, the Kennedys in the United States.

Dictatorship

Typically, a dictatorship goes hand-in-hand with an authoritarian and totalitarian government. In this government form, a dictator rules. And they typically assert their authority using military power, which is called a military dictatorship. There have been many dictatorships throughout history. Famous examples include Joseph Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein’s rule of Iraq. North Korea falls into this list as well.

Federalism

Federalism is all about dividing power. Not only does the government have central power, but local states or regions also have their own specific powers. For example, in the U.S., the federal government is the central power, but the individual states all have their own regional and state governing laws. This means state laws might be different in California than they are in Tennessee.

Republicanism

Many times, you see ‘Republic of’ this or ‘Republic of’ that. When something is a true republic as in republicanism, it means the citizens have the power. They have the voting power and the power to make changes in their government. Now, republicanism can get quite confusing because it typically goes hand-in-hand with federalism and theocracy. Examples include France and India.

Theocracy

Types of governments are about who rules. In a theocracy, the ruler is God or a deity. The creation of laws comes from religious texts, scriptures, and spiritual leaders. A theocracy also mixes with other types of governments. For example, Iran is an Islamic democracy, and the Vatican government is dictated by the Christian religion and pope.

Tribalism

Indigenous tribes around the globe use a form of government called tribalism. In this form of government, you follow the dictates and rules of your tribe, which is made of specific people groups or those with the same ideals. There can be a council of elders making decisions, but not always. Each tribes make up is unique. While tribalism is becoming less and less common, tribes in Africa still use this form of government.

Economically Driven Types of Government

Economy determines government type, too. See it in action by looking at capitalism, socialism, and communism.

Capitalism

While capitalism is actually a type of economy, many times, it works to drive a government and political power. In capitalism, the government doesn’t run the economy; instead, private-ownership corporations and businesses do. While the U.S. is a mixed economy, many would consider it capitalistic. Other examples include Switzerland and Hong Kong.

Communism

When it comes to what type of government China has, most people might think of communist. Actually, China is probably one of the most famous historical examples of a communist government. However, in modern China, the answer isn’t as simple as that.

So, what is communism? A theory created by Karl Marx, communism is where everything is publicly owned rather than privately like in capitalism. It’s an attempt to create a classless society, but it typically happens through a violent revolution. Beyond China, communist examples include Vietnam and Laos.

Socialism

Socialism and communism form from the same ideals of Karl Marx for a utopian, classless society. However, while communism uses violence to achieve its aims, socialism places emphasis on making small changes through reforms and laws. Additionally, communism doesn’t have private property, while in socialism, you can own property, but industry is regulated by the government. Socialist examples found around the world include Algeria and Tanzania.

Different Types of Governments

Governments are like flavors of ice cream. Sometimes more is just better. For example, the United States is a federal republic with a democratic government style and a capitalistic economy. See how that can quickly get confusing? Learn more about how governments work by checking out federal bureaucracy examples.

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