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Government

The Constitution is only a framework or a skeleton, its flesh and blood is provided by the actual processes of politics.

Noting populist and nationalist forces making gains in democratic states last year, Freedom House declared 2016 the 11th consecutive year of a decline in global freedom. Of the 195 countries assessed in the Freedom House report, less than half were rated Free. Forty-nine countries were rated "not free", and of those, Syria, Eritrea, North Korea, Uzbekistan, South Sudan, Turkmenistan, Somalia, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, and Saudi Arabia had the "worst" aggregate scores for political rights and civil liberties. The United States was listed as one of the countries rated "free," but also was said to have faced setbacks in "political rights, civil liberties, or both" in the "Freedom in the World 2017" report released Jan. 31, 2017.

Arch Puddington and Tyler Roylance wrote "In 2016, populist and nationalist political forces made astonishing gains in democratic states, while authoritarian powers engaged in brazen acts of aggression, and grave atrocities went unanswered in war zones across two continents. All of these developments point to a growing danger that the international order of the past quarter-century—rooted in the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law—will give way to a world in which individual leaders and nations pursue their own narrow interests without meaningful constraints, and without regard for the shared benefits of global peace, freedom, and prosperity.

"In the United States, the presidential victory of Donald Trump, a mercurial figure with unconventional views on foreign policy and other matters, raised questions about the country’s future role in the world. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, the collapse of the Italian government after a failed referendum on constitutional reform, a series of antidemocratic moves by the new government in Poland, and gains by xenophobic nationalist parties elsewhere in Europe similarly cast doubt on the strength of the alliances that shaped the institutions of global democracy.

"At the same time, Russia, in stunning displays of hubris and hostility, interfered in the political processes of the United States and other democracies, escalated its military support for the Assad dictatorship in Syria, and solidified its illegal occupation of Ukrainian territory. China also flouted international law, ignoring a tribunal’s ruling against its expansive claims of sovereignty over the South China Sea and intensifying its repression of dissent within its borders. And unscrupulous leaders from South Sudan and Ethiopia to Thailand and the Philippines engaged in human rights violations of varying scale with impunity.

"In the wake of last year’s developments, it is no longer possible to speak with confidence about the long-term durability of the EU; the incorporation of democracy and human rights priorities into American foreign policy... "

Types of Government

The truth is, as Rousseau remarks, all governments are in a sense mixed. Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, and Polybius seem to have recognized the mixed type of constitution, Cicero and Polybius treating Rome as an example of such a form. Polybius dwelt upon the excellence of this form, and declared it to be the best of all for men. Tacitus spoke of a government compounded out of democratic, monarchical, and aristocratical elements. The varieties are almost infinite in number. It would be necessary to write the history of all peoples in order to enumerate all the forms of mixed constitutions that have been in force since the beginning of the world.

A constitution shows the way a nation is to be governed and the sort of society the nation is trying to develop. A country's constitution contains the rules that the government and the people must follow.

Throughout history, people have invented theories about how a state should be run and what the order of priorities should be when decisions are made on political issues. These theories are called ideologies. Most ideologies are referred to as either right-wing or left-wing. These terms were first used in a political sense during the French Revolution. In 1789, King Louis XVI was forced to hold meetings with members of the clergy, nobility and middle classes. At these meetings, the nobility sat on the king's right, and the others sat on his left. After the overthrow of the King, this custom spread to the French Assemblies. Those representing the aristocrats and tradition sat on the right and those believing in more social equality sat on the left.

The classification of governments with respect to whether the controlling power is in the hands of one man, a few or the many, is as old as Pindar and Herodotus. Aristotle exhibited more clearly than is commonly done by modern writers the connection of the political institutions of a people with its life as a whole, and is less exposed to the danger of treating these as something independent and equally applicable to all communities. In the Politics, the leading characteristic of his method is the care he takes scientifically to trace everything back to its real source, and to find the principle of its explanation in its own peculiar nature. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that the treatment of political constitutions suffers in simplicity when it does not confine itself to deducing them as the forms of an organised civil life from the spirit and mutual relations of the citizens, but mixes itself up with the discussion of the legal details of that life itself. Aristotle is not free from this confusion.

The different forms of political constitution are the recognised aim of government, and the distribution of political power. In the former respect the contrast is between those States in which the common good and those in which the advantage of the rulers is pursued as the highest end. In treating, on the other hand, of the distribution of political power, Aristotle retains at first the customary arithmetical division of States according as they are governed by one, by some, or by all of the citizens.

Combining these two principles, he enumerates six forms of constitution, three of which are good and three bad, setting down all those as unjust and despotic in which the aim is not the common good, but the advantage of the rulers. Where the administration has for its object the common good, if one is the sovereign, there is a monarchy; if a minority, an aristocracy; if the whole body of the citizens, a polity; where it has for its object the advantage of the sovereign, monarchy degenerates into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy, polity into timocracy [or democracy].

Referring further to the distinction between democracy and oligarchy, Aristotle criticises those who look for it in the fact that in the former the whole body, in the latter a minority, of the citizens hold the sovereignty. This numerical distinction, he holds, is merely accidental and derivative: the essential opposition of these two forms of constitution consists in the fact that in the one the rich, in the other the poor, bear rule. In like manner that polity which stands between them is distinguished by the preponderance of the middle class.

Aristotle finds the characteristic peculiarity of democracy in freedom and equality, in the fact that all free men have an equal share in the government; and then combining this principle with the two others, he says that in democracy the majority of the poor and the free, in oligarchy conversely the minority of the rich and the noble, are the rulers; for since in a State where all are equal the majority of votes decides, and the poor always form a majority, these have necessarily the power in their own hands. Following up the same line of thought, he indicates virtue, wealth, and freedom as severally characteristic of different forms of constitution: virtue of aristocracy, wealth of oligarchy, freedom of democracy.

A republic may be aristocratic, as the Roman, most of the Italian, and some of the Swiss republics. It may even be Monarchical, as the Spartan and the Polish. But Democracy denotes the constitution which allows the superior power to reside in the whole body of the citizens, having never parted with it to a Prince, or vested it in the hands of a select body of the community, from which the rest are excluded. In‘order to constitute a Democracy, therefore, it is necessary that the people should be either formally or substantially possessed of the supreme power, not sharing it with any other party independent of themselves, still less exercising authority subject to the control or revision of any other and independent body.

The very essence of an aristocracy is that a class should exist endowed with the supreme power, while into that class admission is denied to the people at large.

Traditional government

Different types of traditional government developed because people in the world knew very little about each other and each community advanced and developed in its own way. Traditionally, each culture or community had its own customs, laws, ways of choosing leaders and organising activities. People joined together to garden, hunt, fish, build houses, trade and protect each other. Rules for the good of the community were made by leaders and enforced by the ‘big men’ or chiefs for each clan. Problems between groups were solved by talking, tribal fighting, payback and compensation.

Today communities still follow some of their traditional laws. While they are generally referred to as customs or traditions, they really have the force of law in most places. If the laws do not interfere with provincial or national laws they are allowed to remain. These laws tens to deal with such things as land, sacred places, food, ceremonies and marriage.

Democracy

Democracy is a system of government which recognises the right of all members of society to influence political decisions, either directly or indirectly. Direct democracy, in which political decisions are made by the whole citizen body meeting together, is only possible where the population is small. The American and French revolutions, and the growth of the classes following the Industrial Revolution, were important influences in the formation of modern democracies.

In many countries today, decisions are made on the votes of only a few hundred people who are elected (chosen) by the voters. They make decisions on behalf of all the electorate and are known as representatives. They often belong to a political party. All citizens have the right to vote and put themselves forward as possible representatives, called candidates. This is known as representative democracy.

Representative democracy began to evolve during the 18th and 19th centuries, in Britain, Europe and the US. Its central institution is the representative parliament, in which decisions are effected by majority vote. Representative democracy is characterised by:

  • Regular elections with a free choice of candidates
  • Universal adult suffrage
  • Freedom to organize rival political parties
  • Freedom to oppose the government of the day
  • Independence of the judiciary
  • Freedom of speech and the press
  • The preservation of civil liberties and minority rights

Some people believe that Western democracies are not democratic enough because:

  • Most political decisions have different effects on the rich and poor
  • People in Western democracies vote for what is best for them
  • Once elected, representatives use their own judgement when making decisions. This may not always coincide with public opinion
  • Important decisions should be decided by referendums and not left entirely to the government
  • People can he influenced by the media (newspapers, television and radio). Often the media reflects the views of powerful groups or a popular political party or cause

'Democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people,' said Abraham Lincoln, who was the 16th President of the USA. Democracy is government by the people, or by elected representatives of the people. Under a democratic form of government, the people who decide whether or not a law or a new project or an investment will be suitable are elected by the whole adult population.

There are three basic types or dimensions of democracy that can be analytically distinguished from one another, although they often appear together in real life: representative or electoral democracy, liberal democracy and participatory democracy. A representative or electoral democracy exists when top government leaders are chosen in a competitive election to represent those who elect them. A liberal democracy is based on faith in the rationality of individual citizens and emphasizes the freedom of individuals from governmental interference and constraints on the concentration of power. A participatory democracy exists when individuals participate in making the decisions that affect their everyday lives. Most mature democracies include a combination of these features, and vary greatly in the specific interrelations among them.

Republicanism

A President is head of state in a Republic. Some presidents are executive presidents who organise and direct the government, such as in the USA; others are ceremonial and a prime minister organises the government. Republics can be full democracies in which they elect their presidents and have opposition parties, such as in the Philippines. Other republics have only limited elections and oppositions, such as in Indonesia. Republics can begin after a revolution in which the people overthrow the ruling government.

Presidential Government

Of all questions having to do with the Executive Branch none is of greater importance than that of the relations that shall exist between the chief executive, constituting this branch and the other branches of government.

That type of Popular Government known as a Presidential Government results where the chief executive is deemed to derive his powers directly from, and be accountable directly to, the electorate. The leading example of such a government is that of the United States. Under this form of government the chief executive is not dependent upon having the support of the legislative branch for continuance in office. It may happen, and in our government often does happen, that the chief executive and the legislature are not in accord in respect to their general policies or governmental programs, and that the chief executive may hold his office in virtue of the support of a political party different from the one to which the majority of the members of the legislature belongs.

Parliamentary Government

What is known as a Responsible Government exists when, in a Popular Government of the Representative Type, the principle is established that the officer or officers actually exercising the executive power shall at all times have the support of at least the lower or popular chamber of the legislature, as a condition to their remaining in power. A condition precedent to the operation of a government of this type would seem to be the establishment of the system, heretofore described, of having the executive power, from the legal standpoint, vested in the hands of a titular chief executive, while its actual exercise is in the hands of another body known as a ministry.

Cabinet government is that system in which the real executive — the cabinet or ministry — is immediately and legally responsible to the legislature or one branch of it (usually the more popular chamber) for its legislative and administrative acts, and mediately or politically responsible to the electorate; while the titular or nominal executive — the chief of state — occupies a position of irresponsibility. The members of the ministry are usually members of the legislature and the leaders of the party in the majority, but whether they are members or not, they have the privilege of occupying seats therein and of participating in the deliberations. In short, the ministerial office is not incompatible with legislative mandate. On the contrary, the cabinet system presupposes the double character of minister and member, and thus executive and legislative functions are inextricably commingled.

The English make a distinction between the ministry and the cabinet. The ministers — some forty or more in number — are the chiefs of the executive departments, among which the administration of the country is divided, including also the parliamentary undersecretaries who are not heads of departments. The cabinet, on the contrary, is simply those members of the King's ministry who are summoned by the Prime Minister to attend cabinet meetings. There are usually some eighteen or twenty of these. In a large sense the ministry embraces all the political functionaries charged with the direction of public affairs who hold their positions only during the existence of the cabinet. From all these a committee called the cabinet is chosen.

Under one variant, the cabinet is immediately responsible to the electorate and only secondarily responsible to the House of Commons. On this principle is explained the resignation of the Balfour Cabinet in 1905, at a time when it still retained a large majority in the House.

Kleptocracy

There has long been a scholarly consensus that corruption and inequality are closely interrelated (see here, here, and here). The two phenomena interact in a vicious cycle: corruption leads to an unequal distribution of power in society which, in turn, translates into an unequal distribution of wealth and opportunity.

Modern writers add kleptocracy, the term used when officials steal from their own governments at the expense of their citizens. In kleptocratic settings, corruption is at the heart of the problem and not chiefly a symptom of it. In kleptocracies, risk is nationalized and rewards are privatized. Participation in the spoils of kleptocracies is organized and controlled by top political elites, who raid state resources with immunity and impunity. This term might be applied to Angola, Azerbaijan, Philippines, Russia, Ukraine and Zaire.

The scourge of corruption is typically viewed as a symptom of a larger institutional problem. All countries, to one degree or another, suffer from corruption. Systems in which independent media, civil society, courts, and political opposition are weak or marginalized are particularly vulnerable because they do not possess the needed accountability and transparency to prevent corrupt practices from taking root. In kleptocracies, however, the challenge is much more acute.

In kleptocracies, the instruments of the state are directed to shielding and enabling the corrupt activities of dominant power holders. Corruption is the lifeblood of these systems, like the one in present day Russia, and the glue for regime survival. Therefore, in kleptocratic systems where the stakes for power are all or nothing, whistleblowers who seek to expose corrupt practices themselves routinely become targets of law enforcement; investigative journalists and oppositionists become enemies of the state; and independent businesses are brought to heel in order to preserve the kleptocratic order.

Kleptocrats exploit the benefits of globalization to enrich themselves, hollow out their own countries’ institutions, and subvert the democracies. With the help of Western enablers, a foreign kleptocrat transform the ownership of a questionable fortune, earned in an unstable country where jail is often one court decision away, into a respected philanthropist who can be photographed alongside celebrated international figures and media stars.

Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee June 30, 2016 "Well-resourced kleptocracies ... project their sophisticated corrupt practices beyond national borders with an ever- increasing impact felt in new and established democracies alike. Kleptocracy has emerged a serious global threat. Parasitic at home, abroad kleptocratic regimes by their nature seek to exploit the vulnerabilities in the institutions of individual democratic states, as well as regional and global rules-based institutions."

An influential 2014 report by Oxfam, titled Working for the Few summarises the main point: “Extreme economic inequality and political capture are too often interdependent. Left unchecked, political institutions become undermined and governments overwhelmingly serve the interests of economic elites to the detriment of ordinary people.” In other words, corruption can flourish when elites control the levers of power without any accountability.

Dictatorship

A dictatorship is a system of government in which one person has the absolute authority. There are usually no elections in a dictatorship. A dictator has complete power over a country. There is usually no government group to help rule the country. Often the dictator's power is obtained and kept by force, such as using the defence forces.

A dictator can be called 'benevolent' if s/he uses her/his powers for the good of the people, not simply for her/his own. Although many dictators have promised to defend the rights of the people, most of them have failed to do so. Many dictators have taken over the government in times of crisis, but they have ruled in a cruel and violent way. They order punishment and death for anyone who opposes them.

Colonialism

Colonialism (imperialism) is a system of government control by one country over people in another country. This is done by establishing colonies or controlling the trade of the other country. By the 1900s, many European countries, including Britain, France, Germany and Holland, had imperial possessions (empires). Britain and Germany were earlier colonial governments in PNG. Later, Australia governed as a representative of Britain. Although most countries in the world are politically independent, some remain economically dependent on the developed countries.

Constitutional Monarchy

On the basis of the source or tenure of the executive, monarchies may be classified as hereditary or elective, or they may be a combination of both. All of the monarchies of the present day are hereditary, though there have been many exceptions in the past. The early Roman kings were elective, as were the kings of the ancient monarchy of Poland. The head of the Holy Roman Empire, as is well known, was chosen by a small college of electors, though usually from the same family. In general, it may be said that the installation of dynasties in newly formed states usually takes place through election, though the crown thereafter is generally transmitted according to certain rules of hereditary succession.

Monarchy may be either of the absolute type, in which case the monarch is sovereign, and state and government, legally and politically speaking, are identical, or it may be constitutional or limited in form. In the former case the monarch is bound by no will except his own; in the latter case he is bound by the prescriptions of a constitution which he has sworn to support, and hence the royal office is nothing but an organ of government.

As to the difference between an absolute and a limited monarchy, the main difference consists in the impunity which, in a direct and open way, might by law be alike conferred in both monarchies. It is in an absolute monarchy, accordingly conferred in a direct and open way; in a limited monarchy in some indirect and concealed way, in preference. In a limited monarchy, the acts of the monarch and his instruments are necessarily, in one way-or other, more exposed to observation than in an absolute monarchy. In England, the situation of king, by the avowed state of the law, is placed above the field of legal responsibility, to the purpose of exposure to punishment. He cannot be made to suffer, nor, consequently, to do anything that it does not please him to do, or suffer.

Absolute Monarchy

Popular usage considers any government having a hereditary executive to be a monarchy, even though its legislative department rests upon a popular basis. In short, popular usage makes the test the nature of the executive tenure and the tenure of the titular executive at that.

Manifestly no satisfactory definition of monarchy can be framed. A Monarchical Government does not cease to be absolute merely because the Sovereign exercises his authority through certain functionaries, or certain Councils, appointed by himself. These Councils are the creatures of his power and pleasure ; a breath from him can unmake as it made them. They exercise no direct control whatever over him, and only share his prerogative to the extent to which it pleases him that they should.

Strictly speaking, there are no longer any pure monarchical governments in Europe. What are loosely and popularly called such are in fact mixed governments, that is, governments composed of monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic elements combined.

Theocracy

The theist is a man firmly persuaded of the existence of a Supreme Being equally good and powerful, who has formed all extended, vegetating, sentient, and reflecting existences; who perpetuates their species, who punishes crimes without cruelty, and rewards virtuous actions with kindness. The theist does not know how God punishes, how he rewards, how he pardons; for he is not presumptuous enough to flatter himself that he understands how God acts; but he knows that God does act and that he is just. The difficulties opposed to a Providence do not stagger him in his faith, because they are only great difficulties, not proofs: he submits himself to that Providence, although he only perceives some of its effects and some appearances; and judging of the things he does not see from those he does see, he thinks, that this Providence pervades all places and all ages.

The Egyptians, like other people of antiquity, deduced their monarchy from a theocracy; for they said and believed that they were at first governed by gods, as afterwards by mortal kings. The brahmans in India possessed for a long time the theocratical power; that is to say, they held the sovereign authority in the name of Brama; and even in their present humble condition they still believed their character indelible. The priests of Chaldea, Persia, Syria, Phenicia, and Egypt, were so powerful, had so great a share in the government, and carried the censer so loftily above the sceptre, that empiVe may be said, among those nations, to have beetf divided between theocracy and royalty. The Japannese were incontestably governed by a theocracy. Their earliest well-ascertained sovereigns were the 'dairos,' the high-priests of their gods.

Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism is a system government in which the state exercises wide-ranging control over individuals within its jurisdiction. Usually, the totalitarian state has but one political party, led by a dictator, and an official ideology that is disseminated through the mass media and educational system, with suppression of dissent. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were examples of totalitarian states.



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