Government and Law

This is a huge attribute in that it takes on so many forms and has so much influence on a given culture. Government and law are generally designed and implemented to secure the safety of a culture and helps to maintain order. Often, the government creates the laws that are designed to protect the people and help insure that its citizens act in a responsible manner. While government is an important institution for all cultures, it can be extremely complex and very expensive. The people of a given culture generally pay for their government in taxes. The tax money goes towards ensuring that roads and bridges are safe and can also be used to pay for schools or government worker's salaries.

There are many different types of governments around the world and each has changed slowly over time to meet the needs of the people. Below is a list of the different types of governments we will be studying this year.

Types of Government

Republic: A system of government where the power resides with the people. Citizens of a given nation elect representatives who then advocate for them in government. There is no king or other head official that earns his rank as a result of heredity. All government officials are either elected or appointed by other elected officials.

Communism: A system of government where the government itself owns all of the means of production. As a result, the government itself controls the country's industry and, therefore, many other aspects of the economy of the country such as food resources and production and pay for workers. The people themselves do not have any power regarding decisions made by the government or the individuals who hold positions of power. Individuals do not vote for officials nor do they have any say in the creation of laws. Officials are appointed by other members of government and they create the laws for the culture.

Monarchy: When a monarch such as a king or queen hold absolute power in a given culture. The monarch possess all of the power thus he/she creates all of the laws and individuals do not have the power to vote or contribute to decision making. This leader is generally awarded his/her office as a result of heredity. Formerly very widespread throughout the world, monarchies are fairly uncommon now. While some nations maintain royalty, these royals rarely have any actual power in government and act more as figureheads.

Dictatorship: Similar to a monarchy, in a dictatorship all of the power rests with one individual. In dictatorships the dictator usually does not enter into office as a result of heredity. Dictators come into power as a result of military action of because the people have chosen to give all of the power to one individual.

Oligarchy: When the power of government is shared by a small group of leaders who collectively make the decisions regarding a given culture. They are generally appointed and not elected by the people.

Fascism: A social and political belief system where the primary guiding principle is that the state or nation is the highest priority, rather than personal or individual freedom. Similar to a dictatorship, all of the power generally rests with a dictator, however, in a fascist nation the state always comes before the individual.

Law

Laws are generally quite complicated and while most are put in place to insure safety and order, others are the result of custom or tradition. Law and government are very closely aligned with one another and are apparent in every society. One example of the relationship between the government and law is the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution outlines how the government is elected, who possesses the power to do what, and the process of creating laws.

To learn more about the Constitution, check out this website which summarizes much of it and makes it easier to understand:
www.usconstitution.net/constkids4.html

Key Questions About Government and Law

1. Why do you think dictatorships and monarchies used to be so much more common than they are today?

2. Republics sound like great ideas because the people have so much power, but is it always a good idea to give the people so much decision making authority? Think of a few examples of times when republic can actually be a hindrance to the government providing for the safety and welfare of the people.

3. What would happen to a culture that had no laws or government? Do you think that this culture would survive?

4. Which of the types of government noted above do you think has the greatest chance for success? Explain your choice and reasons.

5. Think of an example of a law that was recently put into place. What is the law and describe how it became a law.