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The Constitution is only a framework or a skeleton, its flesh and blood is provided by the actual processes of politics. Thus one may distinguish between a country's form of government, and the day to day dynamics of the political processes which animate that form of 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.

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.

Autocracy rests upon force; democracy rests upon law. Respect for law is the spirit of democracy and for the reason that in a democracy the law is an expression of the will of the people. There is therefore, this essential distinction between the two forms of government, namely, that while the government of an autocracy assumes superiority to law and the right to violate any legal or moral obligation which may interfere with its selfish interest, the government of a democracy is subject to the law for the reason that democracy rests upon law and depends upon law for its perpetuity.

Thus, while a democracy preserves itself through the exercise of these qualities, it is better adapted to apply the same methods in the conduct of its international affairs and the result is an ever increasing certainty that international law will be observed as the foundation of international order and civilization. This characteristic of democracy leaves no option in its attitude toward autocracy. The two types of government cannot live permanently side by side.

So long as there is an autocracy anywhere in the world democracy is not safe from the attacks which are sure to come from time to time, not as the result of international misunderstandings—questions which might be settled by arbitration,-—but as the result of the spirit of rapacity and aggression which constitutes the very soul of autocracy. To be safe, democracy must destroy autocracy whenever and wherever it can. The world cannot be half democratic and half autocratic. It must be all democratic or all autocratic. There can be no compromise. If autocratic, there can be no international law, no treaty integrity; if democratic, national law will be observed and peace will be enthroned.

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Page last modified: 23-07-2018 13:46:06 ZULU