A government is a group or system of individuals governing an organization, usually a nation. The government is made up of different institutions such as the House of Representatives and the Senate, the executive and the judicial branches of government, local governments, the courts, and other agencies. In a representative government, the members of the legislature to represent the people and are accountable to them. In a representative government, representatives are elected for a specific office and cannot serve more than two years at a time. Elected representatives are answerable to the voters for their performance of their duties.
The government may be ruled by a hereditary monarchy such as the United States or by a constitutional republic such as Switzerland. In many modern times, a constitutional republic is ruled by a government that is established through an election. The executive branch and the courts are typically created by the people through a constitutional amendment process. The role of the legislature is limited to preparing the guidelines for the constitution and to defending the constitution against lawsuits. Historically, there have been very few constitutional monarchies in the world.
The ultimate rulers in many countries are not the elected representatives, but rather, the absolute ruler, which is a hereditary monarch who commands the masses through the army. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and the aristocracy (lords) are mostly from Europe and Latin America. Oligarchies usually rule without any representation from the people. This can be considered the opposite of the government or the democracy.
The opposite of the aristocratic government is often called a democracy, which is ruled through a popularly elected legislative assembly that meets to make laws. Examples of extremely undemocratic governments are Venezuela, Burma, Iran, Syria, and Zimbabwe. Many of these nations have little to no individual freedom and are run through brutal dictatorships. A government without democracy is often considered a military dictatorship, because the ruling party does not allow freedom of speech and assembly.
A military dictatorship is ruled by a strict code of behavior, with the general populace either suffering at the hands of the military or afraid to criticize them. Often, the military dictates all laws and policies. In many cases, a military dictatorship will use force to keep opposition groups in check. In countries where there is not widespread opposition, however, there is no check on the actions of the military. For example, in Iraq, the Gulf War, and Afghanistan, the government’s actions against its own people have been excessive.
In a completely undemocratic system, a military junta rules and makes decisions without consultation of the legislature. Military coups have occurred in many countries over the years. Even the so-called “coalitions of the willing” in World War II did not carry out the wishes of their constituents when fighting overseas. Only by having a popular mandate can a government gain the trust and support of the majority of its citizens.