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Traditional Types of Government: Definitions, Strengths & Weaknesses

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  • 0:41 Monarchy
  • 1:44 Theocracy
  • 2:56 Oligarchy
  • 4:09 Dictatorship
  • 5:20 Representative Government
  • 6:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will explore several traditional types of government. We will define each type and take a close look at its strengths and weaknesses.

Many Types of Government

Americans tend to think about government in rather narrow terms. Most people are used to a representative government in which they elect their leaders and have some say in how the government is run. Once in a while, they might think about another form of government, like monarchy for instance, when reading history or watching popular television shows.

Actually, however, there are many different types of government in the world beyond Americans' limited views. In this lesson, we'll examine a few of them by 'visiting' a series of 'nations,' each of which has a different type of government. Along the way, we'll define each type and talk about its strengths and weaknesses.

Monarchy

Crown's Corner is a monarchy ruled by King Randolph. In a monarchy, a king or queen holds supreme power over his or her nation. Monarchs usually inherit their thrones through their family line. In Randolph's case, his father held the throne before him. Their monarchies were quite different, however. Randolph's father was an absolute monarch. He had full power and often ruled by his word alone. He could make decisions very quickly in important matters without having to consult anyone else, but if he made the wrong decision, it could cost the country greatly.

Randolph, on the other hand, has agreed to rule as a constitutional monarch, following the national constitution and working in cooperation with Parliament, a group of elected lawmakers. He doesn't always like this arrangement because it limits his power, but he has to admit that Parliament can be a great help in running the country. His subjects are happier, too, because they understand that their rights are better protected. Still, though, Randolph sometimes longs for his father's power and prestige.

Theocracy

The Divine Realm is ruled by His Holiness Solomon the High Priest. Solomon, however, never claims that any sovereign power belongs to him alone. Instead, he firmly maintains that the Divine Realm is a theocracy, a type of government ruled by a deity. Solomon, as the country's highest religious leader, claims to receive divine inspiration and interprets the laws found in the nation's holy texts. As high priest, he serves as the head of both the national religion and the state, but he always makes sure that the people know he is merely a representative of the deity. He is pleased that most of the nation's citizens are loyal and live in unity, and he is able to enforce laws strongly when they stray.

Sometimes, however, Solomon is puzzled by complaints he receives from other nations and once in a while from his own subjects. They claim that his people lack freedom of speech and other civil liberties. They say that other religions are often persecuted when they try to worship in the Divine Realm. They maintain that the country's rules are too rigid and can't be adapted to modern conditions. Solomon is certain, however, that his form of government is the best.

Oligarchy

Nobleston is an oligarchy, which is ruled by a group of wealthy, powerful aristocrats called the Top Twenty. These men, who mostly inherited their positions from their fathers or earned them through military success, make decisions for their country without much outside consultation. Their choices are absolute, their word is law, and they rule for life. The Top Twenty usually get along very well because they all have a vested interested in maintaining their power and presenting a stable, united front to their citizens. Most of the time their debates are friendly and fairly smooth, but every once in a while, their personal agendas get in the way, and then comes the clash.

The members of the Top Twenty all feel like they are running their country very well, but for some reason the commoners still complain. They want a say in the nation's policies, and they whine that they are getting poorer and weaker while the Top Twenty and their families and friends grow ever richer and more powerful. They sometimes claim that their rulers are out only to please themselves. The Top Twenty leaders don't think this is a fair assessment at all. They try to look after their subjects, so who should care if once in a while they slip a little treat to a friend?

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