An inquisitive alien visits the planet to check on our progress as a species, and gets into a conversation with the first person he meets. The alien discovers that we live under the rule of a thing called “government” and wants to understand more about what “government” is, what it does and why it exists.
A Brief History
Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, logician, and scientist. Along with his teacher Plato (428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC), Aristotle is generally regarded as one of the most influential ancient thinkers in a number of philosophical fields, including political theory.
Aristotle drew a sharper distinction between morality and politics than Plato. Although a good citizen is a good person, on Aristotle’s view, the good person can be good even independently of the society. A good citizen, however, can exist only as a part of the social structure itself, so the state is in some sense prior to the citizen.
Depending upon the number of people involved in governing and the focus of their interests, Aristotle distinguished six kinds of social structure in three pairs:
- A state with only one ruler is either a monarchy or a tyrrany
- A state with several rulers is either an aristocracy or an oligarchy
- A state in which all rule is either a polity or a democracy
In each pair, the first sort of state is one in which the rulers are concerned with the good of the state, while those of the second sort are those in which the rulers serve their own private interests.
Although he believed monarchy to be the best possible state in principle, Aristotle recognized that in practice it is liable to degenerate into the worst possible state, a tyrrany. He therefore recommended the formation of polity, or constitutional government, since its degenerate form is the least harmful of the bad kinds of government.
Forms of Government
Government by other attributes
Then, there are those with theoretical and speculative attributes which currently have no citable real-world examples outside of fiction. Examples are corporate republic, cyberocracy, uniocracy (by machines or by humans) and last but not least the magocracy (rule by a government with the highest and main authority being either a magician, sage, sorcerer, wizard, witch, or some other magic user).
Government by these attributes
In the real world though, these forms of Government are distinguished: Defined by structure, by power source and by ideology.
- Government by power structure
- Government by power source
- Government by ideology
Functions of Government
Maintenance of Authority: One of the principal functions of government is to remain in power. Governments do not relinquish their authority unless compelled to do so. Many of the actions of politicians and civil servants can be explained by the need to maintain and enhance their power.
Inevitable internationalization: In modern times, national governments have become increasingly involved with one another in supranational systems. The League of Nations, established in 1920, grew to include more than 90 members. It collapsed in World War II but was succeeded by the United Nations (UN).