Government is an association of people, either living within a country or association, or exercising political authority. A government can be civic or private, or both. The head of a government is called the president. The members of a government are called officials. Government structure varies from nation to nation and even from city to city.
A form of government known as democracy has been growing increasingly common in many countries. In most cases, democracy refers to an overall system where power is shared among various groups of citizens in a polity, rather than among established leaders who claim special rights based on race, gender, religion, and other such categories. In practice, however, democracy is not quite possible everywhere, in part because of the diverse characteristics of political parties in different countries. In the United States, for example, two major political parties with distinctive cultural and political origins vie for power and status in American elections. Still, democratic principles have been spreading across most of the world, and are now seen as the best option for organizing society.
For the most part, though, governments in the world are not truly representative systems. Rather, they are forms of rule by one political party over the others. The differences between democracy and republic are usually understood by reference to the nature of their Constitutions. A republic is ruled through a written constitution that establishes the powers and limits of the government. A democracy has no Constituitions, but rather derives its powers from a written agreement between the people and the leaders of a political party. Regardless of whether there is a written constitution in a country, however, government action is still determined by the powers that are vested in the hands of the citizens by the laws passed by a legislature called the legislative branch of government.
The separation of government into two branches – executive and judicial – provides a clue to the workings of democracy. The executive branch does not rule directly, but only tries to carry out the will of the people through legislation and policy. The power to make laws is vested in the people through a primary election. The executive branch, therefore, rarely acts without the consent of the people through a primary election, which the parties may try to manipulate. Because most nations have a primary election, many countries now have a system of checks and balances to prevent the interests of a few from monopolizing political power.
Monarchy is ruled by a single leader who is supported by a select body of primary voters, known as a monarchy. The word “monarchy” derives from Latin roots, meaning “a ruler who rules.” Historically, some monarchies were supported by the Greek city-states, such as the Eastern Roman Empire, while others arose in Europe during the rise of the Roman Empire. In modern times, a handful of highly centralized European countries still retain the title of “monarchy,” such as Austria, which is a member of the European Union.
As mentioned earlier, a democracy has no single governing body or elected official that exercises absolute powers; rather, there are a wide variety of differing powers that can be exercised by representatives of the masses, who hold elective offices. These representatives are often called leaders or representatives, but they cannot legally bind the masses to support or adhere to their agenda unless the constitution they develop limits their powers. Because a democracy has a much broader range of interests than does a monarchy, it tends to develop more stable institutions and elected officials than do hereditary monarchies or constitutional monarchies.