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For a free course about government, see American Government Lecture One

A government is an entity that has the authority to make and enforce laws, and to rule the actions and affairs of others within a geopolitical boundary. God's purpose for government is to protect the innocent by punishing the guilty, and to protect life and property. Governments are established by a set of penultimate norms, also known as constitutions. In the American system of democracy, some laws are created by representatives. Around the world and throughout history there have been many types of governments, some promoting freedom, some restrictive of freedom, and some repressive to the point where little to no freedom exists. In the U.S., the term "government" typically refers to the oppressive, often-corrupt federal government based in Washington, D.C.

Civil disobedience is a partial rejection of an immoral government, by peacefully flouting an objectionable law. The Boston Tea Party, in which Samuel Adams is presumed to participate, is a famous example of this. Abolitionists who violated slavery laws, including the Fugitive Slave Acts (part of the Compromise of 1850), are additional examples. Saint Paul, who wrote many of his letters from jail, is often cited for obedience to government; Henry David Thoreau is cited for peaceful civil disobedience.

Types of Government

Government placement chart, based on degree of power government wields over the individual.

Currently, the current spread of government rests on a "left-right" chart, with communism and socialism on the far left, fascism and nazism on the far right. Somewhere in the middle is democracy and republicanism, maintaining a balance in the center.

A more accurate layout is based upon the percentage of government control over the individual, with anarchy (no government) on the far right, going leftward until we reach oligarchies like communism and autocracies like nazism on the far left. A Biblical rendition, Ecclesiastes 10:2, states "A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left." With that in mind, there are five - and only five - types of government, consisting of the following:


From ancient Greek ἀναρχία ("disorder"[1]) it represents a condition of lawlessness or political disorder brought about by the absence of governmental authority. Anarchy can mean the following:

lack of state power per se;
the hypothetical situation when the state is replaced by a stateless society, a utopia (the ideal of anarchists);
the situation before the emergence of the state as a form of social structure in primitive society.

While the idea of a utopia can sound good on paper, in reality an anarchist society has extremely-restrictive freedom. Experience has shown that lack of law and order - lack of government - ensures that thieves, bandits, and murderers are out and about; the individual must continually be on guard and restrictive in his movements to protect his life, family, and property.

In 1840 Pierre-Joseph Proudhon used the term anarchism to designate a new at the time political philosophy in his treatise "What is property?"[2]. His reasoning - in which he coined the phrase "property is theft" - has been seized upon by by socialists, communists, and fascists, as well as anarchists as they have tried to establish their versions of utopia by force.


From Latin meaning "the public thing" (respublica)[3], a republic means a governing body elected by a public who is entitled to vote, responsible and accountable to the public, and governing according to law. Laws enacted within a republic enable more freedom than the individual would have under an anarchistic society, i.e. the individual is free to move about, conduct business, engage in commerce, or exchange ideas, while the laws put in place ensure swift trial and punishment on those who would try to harm him. The United States of America is considered a federal republic, of which the Constitution guarantees "to every state in this union a republican form of government"[4].

Types of republics

  • Constitutional - a government by or operating under an authoritative document (constitution) that sets forth the system of fundamental laws and principles that determines the nature, functions, and limits of that government.
  • Federal (Federation) - a form of government in which sovereign power is formally divided - usually by means of a constitution - between a central authority and a number of constituent regions (states, colonies, or provinces) so that each region retains some management of its internal affairs; differs from a confederacy in that the central government exerts influence directly upon both individuals as well as upon the regional units.
  • Federal republic - a state in which the powers of the central government are restricted and in which the component parts (states, colonies, or provinces) retain a degree of self-government; ultimate sovereign power rests with the voters who choose their governmental representatives.
  • Confederation - a union by compact or treaty between states, provinces, or territories, that creates a central government with limited powers; the constituent entities retain supreme authority over all matters except those delegated to the central government. A peculiar example is the Confederate States of America, which, on paper, copied almost to the letter the United States Constitution; in practice however, its restrictions on civil liberties coupled with a defense of chattel slavery have made it less of a republic and more like an oligarchy.
  • Democratic republic - a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them.


Democracy is a form of government in which the supreme power is retained by the people, but which is usually exercised indirectly through a system of representation and delegated authority periodically renewed. The word comes from the Greek dēmokratía[5], which in the literal sense means power held by the people, i.e "majority rules". Although personal freedoms exists in a fashion similar to a republic, the core of a democracy is essentially "mob rule", with these freedoms controlled or removed by a vote. For example, if a majority of citizens vote to increase taxes by a certain percentage in an effort to redistribute the wealth, they will do it. A quote, usually attributed to Ben Franklin, said it best about the difference between democracy and the liberty of a republic:

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.[6]

Types of democracies

  • Constitutional democracy - a form of government in which the sovereign power of the people is spelled out in a governing constitution.
  • Constitutional monarchy - a system of government in which a monarch is guided by a constitution whereby his/her rights, duties, and responsibilities are spelled out in written law or by custom.
  • Commonwealth - a nation, state, or other political entity founded on law and united by a compact of the people for the common good.
  • Parliamentary democracy - a political system in which the legislature (parliament) selects the government - a prime minister, premier, or chancellor along with the cabinet ministers - according to party strength as expressed in elections; by this system, the government acquires a dual responsibility: to the people as well as to the parliament.
  • Parliamentary government (Cabinet-Parliamentary government) - a government in which members of an executive branch (the cabinet and its leader - a prime minister, premier, or chancellor) are nominated to their positions by a legislature or parliament, and are directly responsible to it; this type of government can be dissolved at will by the parliament (legislature) by means of a no confidence vote or the leader of the cabinet may dissolve the parliament if it can no longer function.
  • Parliamentary monarchy - a state headed by a monarch who is not actively involved in policy formation or implementation (i.e., the exercise of sovereign powers by a monarch in a ceremonial capacity); true governmental leadership is carried out by a cabinet and its head - a prime minister, premier, or chancellor - who are drawn from a legislature (parliament).
  • Presidential - a system of government where the executive branch exists separately from a legislature (to which it is generally not accountable).


Oligarchy is a government in which control is exercised by a small group of individuals[7] whose authority generally is based on wealth or power, and who usually gain such by making false claims of utopia, seeing hidden enemies, etc. Oligarchies are repressive; personal freedoms, such as assembly, speech, press, and religion are severely restricted, with commerce and other business controlled or owned by the state.

Types of oligarchies

  • Communist - a system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single - often authoritarian - party holds power; state controls are imposed with the elimination of private ownership of property or capital while claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people (i.e., a classless society).
  • Maoism - the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism developed in China by Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung), which states that a continuous revolution is necessary if the leaders of a communist state are to keep in touch with the people.
  • Marxism - the political, economic, and social principles espoused by 19th century economist Karl Marx; he viewed the struggle of workers as a progression of historical forces that would proceed from a class struggle of the proletariat (workers) exploited by capitalists (business owners), to a socialist "dictatorship of the proletariat," to, finally, a classless society - Communism.
  • Marxism-Leninism - an expanded form of communism developed by Lenin from doctrines of Karl Marx; Lenin saw imperialism as the final stage of capitalism and shifted the focus of workers' struggle from developed to underdeveloped countries.
  • Socialism - a government in which the means of planning, producing, and distributing goods is controlled by a central government that theoretically seeks a more just and equitable distribution of property and labor; in actuality, most socialist governments have ended up being no more than dictatorships over workers by a ruling elite.


An autocratic government is one ruled by the word and whims of a single individual[8] who may or may not have a few advisors assisting him, and whose word is absolute. Personal freedom is nearly-to-fully non-existent; persons opposed to such a government are usually imprisoned or killed.

Types of autocracies

  • Absolute monarchy - a form of government where a hereditary monarch rules unhindered, i.e., without any laws, constitution, or legally organized opposition.
  • Authoritarian - a form of government in which state authority is imposed onto many aspects of citizens' lives.
  • Dictatorship - a form of government in which a ruler or small clique wield absolute power, not restricted by a constitution or laws, and usually granted such power by a legislature via an Enabling act.
  • Ecclesiastical - a government administrated by a church.
  • Emirate - similar to a monarchy or sultanate, but a government in which the supreme power is in the hands of an emir (the ruler of a Muslim state); the emir may be an absolute overlord or a sovereign with constitutionally limited authority.
  • Fascism - type of government with its roots in communism/socialism, but with a militaristic regimentation of society, the economy, and forcible suppression of everything opposed to it. The three prime examples of fascist governments all occurred within the 20th century: in Italy under Benito Mussolini, in Spain under Francisco Franco, and most infamously, the Third Reich in Germany under Adolf Hitler.
  • Islamic republic - a particular form of government adopted by some Muslim states; although such a state is, in theory, a theocracy, it remains a republic, but its laws are required to be compatible with the laws of Islam.
  • Monarchy - a government in which the supreme power is lodged in the hands of a monarch who reigns over a state or territory, usually for life and by hereditary right; the monarch may be either a sole absolute ruler or a sovereign - such as a king, queen, or prince - with constitutionally limited authority.
  • Sultanate - similar to a monarchy, but a government in which the supreme power is in the hands of a sultan (the head of a Muslim state); the sultan may be an absolute ruler or a sovereign with constitutionally limited authority.
  • Theocracy - a form of government in which a Deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, but the Deity's laws are interpreted by ecclesiastical authorities (bishops, mullahs, etc.); a government subject to religious authority.
  • Totalitarian - a government that seeks to subordinate the individual to the state by controlling not only all political and economic matters, but also the attitudes, values, and beliefs of its population.

Action of Government

Some actions of government are direct, for example, the president may order troops to invade a country. Or Congress may declare war on a country. Or the Supreme Court may render a decision, reversing the order of a lower count. In these cases, there is no question that the government is taking action and intervening in human affairs, i.e., that it is "governing".

But there is no bright line of separation between government and "the things that government sponsors". If the government pays for something, such as a private corporation it charters, then the actions of that corporation are under the control of the government to a certain extent.

That's why there was a backlash against the Boy Scouts getting benefits from the government, such as the use of schools, military bases, etc. "Follow the money" is the watchword of those who are tracing the effects of government policy. In sum, if you fund it, you own it.

Tools to Administer the Government

There is some concern about the tools to administer the United States Government and tools to regulate the government. A person manipulated by another for his own ends. When used figuatively of human agency, tool is generally used to in a contemptuous sense. Contemptuous is manifesting or expressing contempt or disdain; scornful. Contempt is willful disobedience to or open disrespect for the rules or orders of a court or legislative body.

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