Classifying forms of government

Oct 2011
423
Croatia
I had been thinking about government a bit, and... here it goes.
---------------------------------------
In my definition, there would be four forms of rule:
- rule of one
- rule of few
- rule of many
- mixed government

These can be then divided on whether there is or is not rule of law. Rule of one can be either a monarchy or a tyranny; rule of few can be an aristocracy or an oligarchy; and rule of many can be a democracy or ochlocracy. Mixed government can only be a republic - its complexity means that if rule of law collapses, it will either disintegrate into anarchy or else transform into one of "pure" forms of government.

A successful republic, much like a successful democracy, requires several factors:
- educated and active populace
- decentralization of factual power*
- ideological pluralism
* Note: I will be differentiating here between formal and factual power as well as formal and factual forms of government; warn me if it causes confusion

These are required to generate and facilitate discussion and political participation. Having democratic institutions is not enough; citizens have to know they have power.

Now we get to what I noted in the asterisk part: the distinction between formal and factual political system. Political institutions do not define the political system. You can have a formal democracy, but if all political parties follow the same political ideology, serve the same interests and generally do not act any different from each other on key issues (a situation in Croatia with HDZ-SDP), then the system you actually have is a form of oligarchy.

Various political systems also have their own advantages and disadvantages.
- Monarchical political system can change very quickly; in ideal conditions, all it takes is one word from person at the top. However, this also means that the entire system is dependant on performance and mood of whoever is running the things. Government is also separated from the people, which means that ruler may be oblivious to the country falling apart around him - or simply not care. You are pretty much stuck with luck of the draw, and how well and tolerable the system is run depends largely on who you are stuck with managing things: is it Nero, Vespasian, Galba, Marcus Aurelius or Diocletian.
- Aristocratic political system has advantages and disadvantages of monarchical system, but milder, and more varied: it is possible to make decisions fairly quickly, but influence of lower classes is fairly limited to nonexistent, and various interests and personalities of aristocrats can make ridicule of theoretical speed and efficiency of the system, as whole thing seizes up due to internal conflicts.
- Democratic political system gives direct rule by the people. This allows for expression of wishes and political participation, but also for dictatorship of majority and everything connected with that. It also tends to be slow, cumbersome and only usable on small scale.
- Republican political system is flexible and adaptable, as its possession of characteristics of all three political systems allows it to change its approach and workings to suit the particular situation - so Parliament and referendum initiatives can be used to make long-term decisions, but President still is able to make short-term decisions when necessary. Its disadvantage is that it is inherently unstable, as each of three forms of government attempts to establish its dominance of the system. As a result, it has to be very actively watched and maintained.
-----------------
Thoughts?
 
Mar 2019
1,811
Kansas
I
-----------------
Thoughts?
I would also add constitutional monarchies. That form of government sort of falls between a couple you have defined. In a way it is a rule of one, but conversely it fits into the rule of many at the same time.
 
Feb 2019
863
Serbia
Very interesting. I agree with many things said here but I have to raise a point on your definition of monarchy. You class monarchy as only absolute and with rule of one monarch with no power checks. How do you class a constitutional monarchy such as the ones of today. A constitutional monarchy with a less limited monarch such as Britain before the Victorian era or the semi-constitutional monarchy such as Austria-Hungary or the German Empire which has a powerful monarch but also a parliament with some degree of power? The idea of Democracy is a bit tricky. If the people get too much power and know how powerful they are, turning the system into a ''tyranny of the majority'' is there a possibility of the system turning to ideal* communism? If so, where does the ''proletariat dictatorship'' and the society in which there are no social classes and no single ruler or magnate who is above others fall on your scale?

* By ideal I mean communism in theory, where there are no classes, everyone is equal and ''from each according to his ability, to each according to his need'' is followed.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Picard
Oct 2011
423
Croatia
I would also add constitutional monarchies. That form of government sort of falls between a couple you have defined. In a way it is a rule of one, but conversely it fits into the rule of many at the same time.
Very interesting. I agree with many things said here but I have to raise a point on your definition of monarchy. You class monarchy as only absolute and with rule of one monarch with no power checks. How do you class a constitutional monarchy such as the ones of today. A constitutional monarchy with a less limited monarch such as Britain before the Victorian era or the semi-constitutional monarchy such as Austria-Hungary or the German Empire which has a powerful monarch but also a parliament with some degree of power? The idea of Democracy is a bit tricky. If the people get too much power and know how powerful they are, turning the system into a ''tyranny of the majority'' is there a possibility of the system turning to ideal* communism? If so, where does the ''proletariat dictatorship'' and the society in which there are no social classes and no single ruler or magnate who is above others fall on your scale?

* By ideal I mean communism in theory, where there are no classes, everyone is equal and ''from each according to his ability, to each according to his need'' is followed.
Well, as with any form of classification, there are exceptions and modifications. I wanted to provide a simple theoretical system, though yes, a lot could be said about various "mixed" forms of government. Constitutional monarchy in particular can be a mix of monarchy + aristocracy, monarchy + democracy, or monarchy + aristocracy + democracy (in which case it would actually be a form of republic). Also, monarchy under my definition requires rule of law, otherwise it turns into tyranny; there have to be checks on the power of the monarch. Which means that the only option for monarchy to be monarchy is constitutional monarchy, though you might make a case for enlightened absolutism as well.

Here in Croatia we have a saying, "Who flies high, deep he falls" (not necessarily Croatian in origin, mind you). And that very much applies to political systems, and anything else made by humans as well. If you attempt to make an ideal political system, the only realistic outcome are the worst excesses of tyranny. So @Mastersonmcvoidson to answer your question of "where does the ''proletariat dictatorship'' and the society in which there are no social classes and no single ruler or magnate who is above others fall on your scale?", I would say that they fall on the "impossible" part of the scale. That being said, should such a system be made - say, by intervention of God, or some technological trickery - it would be a very definitive democracy. Democracy in my system is defined as "rule of many", and if there are no social classes, then everyone is included in "many".
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mastersonmcvoidson

Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,778
United States
An important thing is political competition vs monopoly. A pure monarchy is monopolistic, while a pure elective republic or democracy has a high degree of competition. I guess you could term them inclusive vs exclusive government types maybe?
 
Oct 2011
423
Croatia
An important thing is political competition vs monopoly. A pure monarchy is monopolistic, while a pure elective republic or democracy has a high degree of competition.
In my system of classification, that would be merely a consequence of the nature of above forms of government. Monarchy is by definition monopolistic, since person cannot compete with themselves; whereas a democracy or republic requires competition, since even culturally homogenous group will still have at least slightly different ideas on how to run things. That being said, it is true that even in a democratic or republican system such competition can be suppressed by various means, in theory at least. But going there would require further diversification of classifications.