Rule by an upper class.
A legislature that comprises two parts or chambers. The USA Congress is a bicameral legislature; its two chambers are the House of Representatives and the Senate. Compare with unicameral legislature.
An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are mainly in private ownership for private gain at the expense of the non-owners. Mechanisms include free markets and freedom of contract.
Checks and Balances
A principle of a system of government whereby each branch of the government can check the actions of the others. As originally conceived, this was true of the government of the USA.
Powers held jointly by the national and state governments.
A league of independent states, each having essentially sovereign powers. The central government created by such a league has only limited powers over the states.
A voluntary association of states; usually limits central authority to foreign affairs and is less permanent than a federation. A political system where states or regional governments retain ultimate authority, except for powers expressly delegated to a central government.
The fundamental law of a nation. Defines the power of the government; specifies offices and their authority.
Consent of the People
Governments and laws are legitimate implicitly from the consent of those governed.
A republic in which the representatives elected by the people make and enforce laws and policies.
Transfer of powers from the national or central government to state or local government. This happened in the United Kingdom in the late twentieth century.
A system of government where political decisions are made by the people directly, rather than by their elected representatives.
Values, customs, and language of the group(s) that control politics and government in a society.
A system of government where power is divided between a central government and regional, or subdivisional, governments. Each of those levels has a domain where its policies are dominant. And each has political or constitutional guarantee of authority.
A political system in which authority is shared between a central government and a state or regional government.
An association of states; usually more permanent than a confederation. A political system where states or regional governments retain ultimate authority, except for powers expressly delegated to a central government.
That part of government primarily responsible for making laws.
Acceptance by the citizens of the right and power of a government or ruler to exercise authority.
Democratic government that provides for the protection of individual human rights, in order to prevent a majority from oppressing a minority.
Advocacy of positive government action to improve the welfare of individuals, support for civil rights, and tolerance for political and social change.
A government whose powers are limited, particularly by institutional checks.
Representative democracy where political power is vested in an elected legislature. Used in most European countries.
Representative democracy where political power is vested in separately elected and appointed branches of national government. This system is used in the USA.
A form of government in which representatives are elected by the people to make and enforce laws and policies. Political decisions are made by the officials elected by the people. [Some such democracies retain a monarchy in a ceremonial role.]
A form of government in which sovereignty rests with the people (or a portion of the people), as opposed to a king or monarch or dictator. This form of Representative Democracy was created by the framers of the US constituion.
Separation of Powers
The division of governmental functions and powers among different branches of government, so that the various self-interests of each group would moderate those of the others.
Theocracy. [From Greek theos = god and krateein = to rule.]
Rule by a god, which in practice means rule by a priesthood. No separation of church and state. Compare with aristocracy.
A regime of command by the government and obedience by the citizens. The regime controls all aspects of political and social life (as in George Orwell’s 1984) . In contrast with an authoritarian state, all social and economic institutions are under government control.
A legislature that comprises a single part or chamber. In the USA (early 21st century) only the state of Nebraska has a unicameral legislature. Compare with bicameral legislature.
A centralized governmenta system where local or regional governments exercise only the powers that the central government gives them.
Universal Suffrage. [From Latin suffragium = voting tablet, vote.] The right and privilege of all adults to vote for their representatives.