The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that no form of government was inherently good or bad. Power, he argued, could be abused by one as easily as by many. With over 200 recognized countries in 2013, the modern world provides many examples of different types of government. Few, if any, countries have a "pure" form of any one type of government; elements of different forms exist in virtually all states regardless of their official classification.
In a democracy, the public rules itself by way of periodically elected leaders who carry out day-to-day government functions and vote in a way representative of their constituents. Occasionally, the public votes on specific laws. ''Democracy'' is often used interchangeably with ''republic,'' and though they are extremely similar, in a republic, only elected officials - not private citizens - vote on legislation. Not all countries calling themselves democracies or republics actually are; some are in fact ruled by a single individual. Some examples of these modern-day republics include Argentina, Egypt, Comoros, South Korea and Liberia.
Autocratic governments exist on a continuum. Some are "ruled" only on paper by benevolent, mostly hands-off figure heads, while others are subjected to tight-fisted control under a dictator. The common denominator is rule by a single individual. Monarchy, despotism, fascism and authoritarianism all fall under the heading of autocracy, but should not be automatically equated with dictatorship. For example, the United Kingdom has a monarchy, but the Queen of England plays only an insignificant role in the formation of government policy and the public votes for parliamentary representatives. At the time of publication, Kazakhstan and Syria were officially classified as autocratic states.
A theocracy is a state in which religious law and authority rules. Sometimes a priest or group of religious officials holds power. Theocratic governance has declined sharply in modern times, the lone holdouts are Iran, classified as a theocratic republic, and Afghanistan, is regarded as an Islamic republic. Vatican City, which is a recognized state, has an ecclesiastical government -- government by a church.
Economic Ideology-Based Governments
Most modern governments are based on political rather than economic ideology, but there are several holdouts at the time of publication -- China, North Korea, Laos, Vietnam and Cuba -- that retain governance based on economic ideals. All have Communist governments. Governments of the past like this were established by drawing upon socialism, Marxism and Leninism for the purposes of more fairly distributed wealth and wider control over the means of production. Their aims were to mobilize, empower and unite the working masses against what was perceived as the oppression and unfairness of capitalism. The Soviet Union, in which communism ruled until the end of the Cold War, was perhaps the 20th century's most noted example of ideology-based governance.
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