Comparing Forms of Government

How should political and economic power be distributed in a society?


Governments have existed since the rise of city-states in ancient times. Over time, governments have evolved in size, complexity, and form. Even today, who rules and for what purpose varies from one country to the next.

Forms of government Modern governments can be classified according to who holds power. Monarchies and dictatorships ruled by one person are relatively rare. So are theocracies and single-party states in which leaders of a religion or political party run the government. Most of the world’s governments today are either parliamentary or presidential democracies.

Distribution of power Modern governments can be defined according to how power is distributed between the national and regional governments. In a unitary system, power is centralized at the national level. In a federal system, the national and regional governments share power. In a con federal system, it is decentralized to regional governments.

Economic systems All economic systems must answer three basic economic questions: What should be produced? How should it be produced? How should it be distributed? In today’s market economies, the government plays a minor role in answering those questions. In command economies, the government plays a major role in economic decision making.