What exactly is a government? A government is simply the rule or group of individuals governing a nation, usually a country. The term “government” can also apply to any institution which is ruled by a government, including privately held corporations. Historically, the United States was ruled by a hereditary aristocratic family that had appointed governmental leaders and created laws and regulations for the people to follow. The first federal government was established by George Washington during the time of the Revolutionary War.
Most citizens believe that a government should have some type of democracy in which a citizen’s vote is worth something and a politician’s majority rule is acceptable as long as they are allowed to make laws and run the government. Historically, a government by majority rule usually has a poor track record of delivering good results. Additionally, a government with a poor track record tends to grow increasingly corrupt and inefficient, eventually leading to high-crime rates and growing poverty in its citizenry.
A form of government called representative government involves voting based upon party lines or other arrangements at the polls. A truly democratic government makes every citizen equal under the law regardless of race, gender, religion, or social status. A representative government distributes power among citizens through elected officials at both the national and local levels. This system is preferred over the other forms of government described earlier because it guarantees the equal protection of rights and opportunity of all citizens regardless of their social status.
In a representative democracy, power is concentrated in the hands of elected officials rather than a small group of individuals. Elected officials make most of the important political power decisions such as when and how to impeach a president or another political power leader, when and how to declare war, and when and how to conduct diplomacy. A representative democracy gives every citizen a voice in major political decision making. Because of this, the system often creates more democracy than a typical autocratic government because one person’s opinions can change the way the government does things. However, sometimes a representative system fails to achieve its goals because there are no checks and balances to prevent the elected officials from abusing their power.
One of the more severe disadvantages of a representative democracy is when a political party takes over the institution of democracy through an absolute ruler. The new leader cannot make impartial political power decisions because they have all the political power. If a country is undergoing economic turmoil or is facing internal struggles for power, a new system of government may not work well, and some argue that this is one of the reasons for the widespread corruption that pervades many countries.
Although there are distinct differences between a representative democracy and a direct democracy, both share a few characteristics. Both require the consent of citizens at the national level prior to changing the political system at any significant level, and both need a decentralized structure to allow checks and balances to maintain freedom of choice and opposition to unhealthy government policies. Direct democracy is limited by the fact that a single political party can monopolize all government decisions. Representative democracy, however, does not have this limitation because each citizen has the right to vote for members of a national legislature who then meet to make policy decisions. Direct democracy is also prone to mobbing, where citizens try to influence other citizens to support their chosen representatives in votes.