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Democracy

A democracy is a government that is controlled and ruled by the people. The


ordinary citizens are able to vote and a decision is made based on majority rule. In
majority rule, the people vote and agree on whatever the majority (more than half) of
the people want. Democracies are distinct from other forms of government where only a
certain group of people holds power (oligarchy) or only one person holds power
(autocracy). There are two types of democracy: direct democracy and representative
democracy.
In a direct democracy, the people can vote directly on laws and issues.
Essentially, every single person is a member of the government. Everybody can vote and
then the people agree on whatever a majority of them voted for. Since countries have
become so large, a true direct democracy would be hard to organize. Can you imagine all
320 million Americans voting on every single law and issue? Since our country is so
large, many think that a representative democracy works best.
A representative democracy is also known as a republic. In a republic, the
citizens can be part of the government themselves but many prefer to vote for others to
be part of the government. It is called a representative democracy because people
vote for other people to represent them in government. Elected representatives should
listen to the ideas of the citizens they represent so that they truly represent what the
people want in government. Another type of government that is very similar to a
representative democracy is a constitutional monarchy. A constitutional monarchy is a
combination between a republic and a monarchy. A monarchy is a government lead by a
king or queen. In a constitutional monarchy, the king or queen has very little power. The
real power is in the legislature (law-making group). Citizens elect representatives to be
in this law-making group and then the legislature chooses a prime minister to head the
government.

Questions
1. How does majority rule work in a democracy?
2. What does the word direct mean? Why do you think it is called a direct
democracy?
3. What does the word represent mean? Why do you think its is called a
representative democracy?
4. Compare and contrast a direct democracy and a representative democracy. (How are
they similar and how are they different?)

Autocracy
An autocracy is a government with a single ruler who has complete control and
power. An autocracy is a type of authoritarian government, where leaders have
unlimited authority and can do whatever they want. The citizens have no power over or
say in government. Autocratic leaders are also labeled as totalitarian, meaning that
their control extends to almost all aspects of peoples lives. Leaders ban any efforts to
oppose them; decide what industries will produce and what farmers will grow; and take
away individual freedoms, telling people what they can believe and what groups they
may join. There are two main types of autocracy: dictatorships and absolute monarchies.
In a dictatorship, the leader (dictator) often comes to power by the use of force.
They overthrow an existing government and seize power. Sometimes when a serious
situation demands a strong leader, government officials may welcome rule by a dictator.
Once they have power, though, dictators rarely give it up. To stay in power, most
dictators rely on the police and military. They often refuse to hold elections and people
do not have freedom. Citizens can be jailed for criticizing the government and are
forbidden from forming groups that oppose the dictator.
An absolute monarchy is a combination between an autocracy and a monarchy.
A monarchy is a government lead by a king or queen. An absolute monarchy is a king or
queen who has complete control and power over the government. Unlike a dictator, an
absolute monarch comes into power by being born into a ruling family.

Questions
1. Explain what it is like to be a citizen in an autocracy.
2. Compare and contrast a dictatorship and an absolute monarchy. (How are they similar
and how are they different?)
3. Think of an example of how it could be possible for an autocracy to be a good form of
government.

Monarchy
A monarchy is a government ruled by a king or queen. He or she was not elected
by the people but rather was born into a royal family. Kings and queens and other
nobility, such as princes and princesses, are from the same bloodline. Kings and queens
will remain the ruler for their entire lives. There are two types of monarchy: constitutional
monarchy and absolute monarchy.
A constitutional monarchy is a combination between a republic and a monarchy.
A republic is a representative democracy where the people get to vote on who runs the
government. In a constitutional monarchy, the king or queen has a very limited role. The
power of the monarch is limited by the countrys constitution (written plan for
government). The constitution outlines what the king or queen can and cannot do as well
as the rights and powers of the citizens. In a constitutional monarchy, the king or queen
usually only takes part in ceremonies and helps the people of a country feel united. The
real power is in the legislature (law-making group). Citizens elect representatives to be
in the legislature and then the legislature chooses a prime minister to head the
government.
An absolute monarchy is a combination between an autocracy and a monarchy.
An autocracy is a government ruled by one person who has unlimited power. Therefore,
an absolute monarchy is a king or queen who has complete control and power over the
government. An absolute monarch comes into power by being born into a ruling family.

Questions
1. Explain how the role of the monarch (king or queen) is different in a constitutional
monarchy from an absolute monarchy.
2. Explain how the role of the citizens participating in government is different in a
constitutional monarchy from an absolute monarchy.
3. Explain the similarity of a royal family in both types of monarchies.

Oligarchy
An oligarchy is a government ruled by a small group of people. Sometimes this
means that only a certain group has political rights, such as members of one political
party, one social class, or one race. For example, in some societies, only noble families
who owned land could participate in politics. An oligarchy can also mean that a few
people control the country. For example, a junta is a small group of peopleusually
military officerswho rule a country after taking it over by force. A junta often operates
much like a dictatorship, except that several people share power.

Socialism
In a socialist society, the government strives to eliminate social classes and make
everyone equal. Private ownership is limited, which means that the government owns
most of the property, including businesses and farms, not the people. The government
also thinks that resources should be shared equally. This is to make sure that everyone
has similar access to resources to prevent people from having too much and becoming
wealthier than others. The point is to eliminate social classes (lower, middle, and upper
classes based on wealth) and to put everyone on an equal playing field. The government
tries to provide equal resources to its citizens by providing everyone with free basic
needs, such as housing, education, and healthcare.

Communism
In a communist country, the government owns the factories and the farms (the
means of production). The idea is that everyone collectively owns the means of
production and there isnt a wealthy upper class benefitting from the work of others. The
main criticism of communism is that there isnt incentive to work harder than is
absolutely necessary since you will receive the same as everyone else anyway. The
government makes decisions on what jobs people have, what goods factories produce,
and what crops farms grow. The government also limits trade with other countries and
tries to meet the countrys needs with the nations own resources. Communist
governments are often organized as autocracies or oligarchies, with only one person or a
small group of people in charge of making all of the decisions. This ruling party often
uses force to keep their power.