Thousands of years ago, nomads lived in tribes. A tribal leader made the rules for the group. In some parts of the world, this form of government lives on. In many countries, though, as populations have grown, government has become more complicated. Every country has a slightly different type of government, based on the country’s history, culture and needs. Countries may change types of government over the centuries, as a result of war or need. Below are the most common forms of government:
In multiparty democracies, government leaders are usually elected by the people. In the U.S., the two main parties are the Democrats and the Republicans. The Democrats stand for certain values and beliefs, while the Republicans stand for a different set of values and beliefs. People from both parties are typically elected. These elected officials must compromise and work together in spite of their differences. Maintaining a multiparty democracy takes a lot of patience and effort. It doesn’t work in every country.
- Constitutional Monarchy: A constitutional monarchy has an elected prime minister and officials, but the country also has a monarch who serves as a figurehead. The monarch doesn’t have military power and rarely makes government decisions.
- Federal Republic: In a federal republic, officials are elected, but individual states have great power. The national leaders oversee the republic as a whole.
- Presidential Republic: In a presidential republic, voters elect both the president and other government representatives. In some countries, the president runs the country and acts as the Head of State. In other countries, the president chooses a prime minister to take care of governmental affairs.
Only one party controls the government under this system. For example, the communist party was the only party allowed in eastern European countries for many years. These countries are now moving toward a multi-party democracy.
- Theocracy: A one-party state ruled by religious leaders. Leaders make rules based on their scriptures and beliefs. Muslim-ruled countries are examples of theocracies.
- One-Party Dominated State: Some countries may allow multiple parties, but one party has complete control.
This was the most common form of government for thousands of years. A monarch rules the country and makes the rules. When the monarch dies, control of the government passes to a son or daughter. Today, most monarchs have a panel of advisors.
Sometimes, the military seizes the government, removing a weak leader. The military takes over. Leaders are chosen from the military. No elections or parties are allowed.
An empire means that one country has power over several smaller countries. During the 19th century, England and other European countries developed empires when they took control of Africa, Asia, Australia and South America. Today, most of the countries in these areas have claimed their independence.
In a dictatorship, one person has absolute control. This leader often gains power through a military takeover. Dictators often rule harshly and allow no other voices to be heard.
Did you know that Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are dependents of the United States? They govern themselves for the most part, but the United States offers them protection and support. Over 10 million people around the world live in countries that are dependents of other countries. French Polynesia, for example, is a dependent of France, while the Cook Islands belong to New Zealand.
Fun Facts about Politics for Kids
- If you have ever tried to talk your mom or dad into giving you something or letting you stay up later you have been practicing politics. Politics is influencing other people, generally so you can control them in some way. Getting mom to cave in to letting you stay up late could be the beginning of your political career.
- Defining the meaning of politics started with the Greeks.
- The longest running political institution is the monarchy. Sumeria was ruled by a monarch in 2100 BC and the British Monarchy still exists today.
- Primitive societies did not have laws. They lived by custom.
- Countries did not develop laws until the late 18th century when written records started being kept and Law Courts were instituted.
- Originally any state or government was a military institution. For a long time a territory was ruled by a king with a group of warriors and court officials by means of force. The larger mass of people was compelled through intimidation and violence to obey the king.
- Elected: Chosen or selected
- Seize: To take possession of something; capture
- Tribal: Of a group of people or society larger than a band but smaller than a state
- Complicated: Difficult
- Values: Collection of guiding principles
- Custom: A way of behavior common to many; a habitual practice
- Intimidation: Act of making timid or fearful through threats
Learn More All about Politics
Check out this cool video all about Politics for kids:
An animated video song all about politics and the 3 branches of the government.
Question: How do politics affect me?
Answer: No matter where you live you are affected by politics. The laws you live by, wherever you are, were developed by the government, or political institution, of the place where you live. Politics determines the amount of taxes you pay, the age you can join the military, whether or not you are required to join the military, where you can build your house, for how long or even if you have to go to school and much much more.
Question: Why do people trying to get elected into an office make promises and then not keep them?
Answer: There is no good answer to that question, but basically it is because the people voting for them let them get away with it.
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