State and System of Government in depth Explained

State is a political institution. And government is one of the important elements of state. As representative of the state, government administers the country. There are different types of states and governments. Different countries choose different types of governments for the differences in their social and political needs. In this article, we will know about different types of states and systems of government.


At the end of this article, we would be able to  -

• describe various types of states and forms of government;

• explain the position of citizens and their relationship with their government;

• determine the differences between democracy and dictatorship; • be inspired to learn and apply democratic behaviour in real life.


State and Government

Many a time the terms 'state' and 'government' are synonymously used. But there are fundamental differences between these two. A state is a complete and stable institution. It possesses sovereignty or absolute power. Government is one of the four elements (population, territory, government and sovereignty) of a state. Although all states are formed with the same elements, all states and governments are not the same. With the change of time, the nature of government and state may also change.


Forms of State

There are different forms of states in the world. In the chart below, we see the different forms of state.

State based on Economic System

Based on economic system, states are classified into capitalist and socialist states.


Capitalist State

In the capitalist state, private ownership of property is recognized. In this form of state, capital, labour and management are vested in private ownership. Government does not have control over those factors. Production and supply system is administered by open competition. In this form of state, citizens are free to own assets and to consume them. Most of the states in the present world are capitalist.


Socialist State

Socialist states are the states which do not recognize private ownership of property. In this kind of state, means of production are owned by the states. Steps are taken for the management of production and distribution under the state's supervision. This is opposed to capitalism. Socialism does not recognize individualism. There exists only one party in this type of state. State controls the mass media. There is no opportunity for the expression of opposition views. For example, China and Cuba are socialist states.


Work: Prepare a chart on the differences between capitalist and socialist states

State on the basis of Sources of Power

Who is the owner of power? People, a single individual or a group? On this basis, states are classified into democratic and dictatorial states.


Democratic State

Democratic state is that in which the power to rule is vested in all members of the state or in the hands of the people. People participate in this form of governance, and they form this government. This is a form of governance which is run for the welfare of the people by direct participation of the people. In the democratic state, people enjoy the right to express opinion and to criticize the government. In this form of state, government is changed through elections held in a constitutional way. In a democratic state there are more than one political party.


This form of governance ensures interests for all and recognizes citizens, rights and rule of law. Bangladesh, India, the United States, UK etc are democratic states.


Work: Make a chart on characteristics of democracy.

Qualities of the Democratic State System

There are many good sides of democracy. Some qualities of democracy are described below.


1. Safeguard of Individual Liberty: In democratic states, people can express their opinions independently. They can criticize the government. People participate in running the government. As a result, individual liberty expands. Citizens' rights are protected in a democratic state.


2. Responsible Governance: In this governance, people's representatives are accountable to the people. They try to work for the welfare of the people so that they could be elected in the next election. As a result, responsible governance is established.


3. Increase of Government Efficiency: In democracy, government's stability depends on the trust of the people. As a result, government attempts to perform its duties with honesty to gain trust of the people. This results in the increase of government efficiency.


4. Symbol of equality and equal rights: All are equal in democracy. In this form of governance, all enjoy equal rights and opportunities regardless of ethnic, religious and racial identities. All participate in the activities of the state equally.


5. Increase of citizen's status: People's elected representatives run the democratic state. As the people can participate in governance, they can realise their own importance. This is how patriotism is created in them. Personality and status grow and enhance.


6. Established on logic and consent: Democratic system based on consent of the people. There is no scope for the use of force in democracy. In the end, people's will and logic get priority.


7. Gain of Political Education: In this form of state, citizens avail themselves of the opportunity to think of complicated political matters. People's political consciousness increases by taking part in elections and by hearing the statements of political parties.


8. Less probability of Revolution: Democracy is a system of flexible governance. If people wish, they could change the government through systematic procedure. There is no need of revolution.


Demerits of Democratic System

In spite of its many positive qualities, there are some demerits in democracy. These are discussed below:


1. Priority of number over qualities or competence: Loss and win in democracy are determined by election, so the number enjoys more importance than qualities. In other words, it counts heads, but undermines merit.

2. Party Governance: Democratic governance is party governance. The party that wins the majority in elections forms the government. Elected party runs the government considering their own interests. As a result, people's resentment piles up.


3. Expensive and Wastage of Money: Government is formed by elections. To conduct elections, a huge amount of money is required. During elections, candidates spend a lot of money. Every political party spends a huge amount of money on leaflets, posters and public meetings to secure public support in the election. Consequently, wastage of time and resources occurs.


4. Frequent Changes of Policy: In democracy, government changes periodically. Elected party in democracy forms the government for a fixed period of time and every political party adopts their programs based on their policies. On some occasions, government's term ends before the implementation of its programs. With the change of government, its policies change too. It obstructs developments in the state.


Steps for successful democracy and democratic behaviour

In the present world, democracy is the best and most acceptable system of governance. But there are many obstacles on the way to its successful exercise or implementation. To remove these obstacles and make democracy successful, many factors are required to be fulfilled. The success of democracy requires educated and conscious population, economic equality and social system established on justice, efficient administration and appropriate leadership. In addition to these, there are other factors that can make democracy successful. These are: tolerance, rule of law, free and independent media, more than one political parties and political tolerance. The most important element that is also required is: citizens have to be democratic in their mentalities. They have to behave democratically in personal, social and political spheres. For this reason, achieving the following qualities is necessary:


• Citizens have to be tolerant to others' opinions. All have to be allowed to express their opinions. Others opinions must be respected and the mentality is to be shown to accept majority opinion as opinion for all. One's own or party opinion cannot be imposed upon others by force.


• Self and partisan interests must be avoided. This is applicable to all citizens and political parties. Opposition should not work for opposition only. All have to work for the welfare of the country.

Besides securing own rights, respect should to be shown to the rights of others. Consciousness is needed so that securing one's own rights does not violate rights of others.


• Cooperation, tolerance and mutual understanding are to be maintained by different communities and groups.


• Respect is to be shown to individuality. Along with this, qualities of a good citizen have to be achieved. Citizens have to be intelligent, self-restrained and conscientious.


• Election is the medium of democracy. Citizens must cooperate so that free and neutral elections can be held. Citizens have to cast their votes with consciousness so that incompetent persons cannot be elected. This is how democracy becomes stronger.


• Rule of law is the heart of democracy. For this reason all have to obey laws. All are equal in the eyes of law. So all have to be treated equally. In other words, to provide equal rights and opportunities is essential. Every citizen has to be careful to learn and practice these democratic norms to make the democracy successful.


Work: Prepare a list of behaviour required to establish democracy.

Dictatorial State System

Dictatorship is an arbitrary system of governance. In this form of state, the power of governance lies not in the hands of the people but in the hands of an arbitrary ruler. Here, the leader possesses all powers. He is said to be a dictator. Dictatorial rule is assisted by ministers or advisors. But they abide by the orders of the ruler. The dictator's orders are laws. In this system, rulers are accountable to none. Only one political party exists. The chief of the party holds the position of the head of the government. The party is run according to his wish and the party comprises of his blind followers.


In dictatorship, mass media (radio, television and newspapers etc) are controlled by the leader and his party. These are not allowed to be used neutrally. Rather these are only used to praise the government. In this form of government, legislature and judiciary do not have freedom. Law making and judicial functions are performed according to the wish of the dictator. One nation, one country and one leader are the ideals of dictatorship. The main principle of a dictatorial state is that everything is for the state and nothing is beyond or against it.


Work: Make a chart/table/concept map on the feature of a dictorial state.

Demerits of a Dictatorial State

Dictatorship is an arbitrary system. The following are its defects:


1. Anti-democratic: Dictatorship is anti-democratic. It does not recognize individual liberty which is the essence of democracy. It violates fundamental rights. Thus it hampers personality development.


2. Arbitrary rule: Dictatorship establishes an arbitrary rule. Because, dictators not accountable to any authority. His words are laws, which leave no room for individual's freedom of thought and exchange of free ideas. Dictatorship, as a matter of fact, is a system of arbitrary governance.


3. An obstacle to the creation of leadership and political consciousness: One man is dominant in this form of governance leaving no room for the development of alternative leadership. As people cannot participate in such governance, so political consciousness is not created.


4. Possibility for revolution: The fear of revolution arises from the lack of participation in this system of dictatorial governance. Dictatorship cannot last long due to internal opposition and the rise of mass uprising against this form of government.


5. Against World Peace: Dictatorship holds and fosters aggressive nationalism. Power and greed for power instill war-mongering mentality in to the dictator. Hitler created havoc all over the world by having such a war-mongering mentality.


In dictatorial state, an individual is sacrificed at the altar of the state. Here, individuals are for the state, the state is not for individuals. Therefore, no state supports dictatorship in the present world.


Work: Determine differences between democracy and dictatorship.

State based on the principles of the distribution of power

Based on the principle of the distribution of power, states can be classified into two categories: unitary state and federal state.


Unitary State

In a unitary state, all powers are vested in the central government. Thus the country is run from the centre. For the benefits of governance, the country is divided into different provinces and regions and some powers are transferred to their hands. But central government, if needed, could retain such powers. In this form of government provincial or regional governments act as agents of the central

government and run governance according to the directives of the central government Bangladesh, UK are examples of unitary states.


Federal State

In this state system, more than one region or province merge together and create a state. This is called federal state.


For the convenience of central government's rule, power is distributed between centre and province or region through constitution. In a federal state, small states stay side by side to form a large state. The state becomes much stronger. In addition, federal goverment mobilizes resources from its smaller states. Thus a large economy is formed. This large economy can contribute to the development of the state. Federal states in the world are more or less developed. Our neighbouring country India is a federation..


State based on the inheritance:

In many states, heads of states assume power through inheritance. These kinds of states are called monarchy. In the monarchy, the son or daughter of the King becomes either King or Queen. There are two types of monarchy, absolute monarchy and constitutional monarchy.


Absolute Monarchy:

In absolute monarchy, King or Queen assumes absolute power. In this form of governance, there is no opportunity for people's participation. This form of government is negligible in number. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia monarchy assumes absolute power.


Constitutional Monarchy:

In this form of state, King or Queen becomes head of state through inheritance or constitutional procedure. But he/she enjoys limited power. The real power of state lies with the elected representatives of the people. In the United Kingdom, constitutional monarchy exists.


Work: Show differences between absolute and constitutional monarchy.

State based on Objectives

Welfare State

The state which works for the bare daily needs of the people is called a welfare state. This kind of state creates opportunities for employment, gives unemployment benefits and provides education and health to the people free of cost.

Canada, UK, Sweden and Norway are examples of welfare state. The features of this state are:


• The state strengthens social security measures for the welfare of society. It fulfills the basic needs of the people such as food, clothing, education, health and shelter. The state provides road infrastructure, orphanages, temporary lodging, subsidy on food and employment opportunities. It also provides people with unemployment allowance, pension and allowances for the handicapped.


• The state imposes tax on solvent people at a higher rate and less tax on less solvent people. It provides assistance and rehabilitation to the poor and the destitutes.


• It fixes minimum wages for the interest of farmers, labourers and workers so that they can maintain their standard of living.


• The state allows farmers, workers and labourers to form cooperatives. Work in pair: Discuss whether Bangladesh may be regarded as welfare state or not.


Work: Discuss whether Bangladesh may be regarded as welfare state or not.

Classification of Governments

Since the emergence of the concept of government, different philosophers have divided governments in different ways. Classification of modern governments is given below.


Classification based on the principle of the distribution of power

Based on the principle of the distribution of power, governments can be classified into two types: unitary government and federal government.


Unitary Government.

The system of governance in which all powers are vested in the hands of central government and governance is run from the centre is called a unitary government. In this system, power is not distributed between centre and province.

In this type of govemment, regional government has no separate entity. The state consists of provincial or administrative regions. But they act as agents or facilitators of the centre. Bangladesh, Japan, UK are the examples of unitary government.


Work: Prepare a concept map/chart based on characteristics of unitary state.

Merits of Unitary Government

Unitary government has the following merits:


1. Easy Organization System: The organization of a unitary government is simple. In it, all powers are vested in the hands of the centre. There is no complexity of sharing power between centre and province. If any decision is made at the centre, it can be easily implemented all over the country. Besides, unified laws, policies and plans are put into effect in this form of governance. Organizational consistency is maintained.


2. Symbol of National Unity: In this form of government there is no autonomous regions or province. As a result the same administrative principles and laws are made for the whole country, which helps to keep national and territorial integrity.


3. Economical: In unitary government, administrative cost is low. Because, government only remains at the centre in this form of government. Here, central government takes all the decisions and implements them gradually. High officials are not necessary at every level, so the cost decreases.


4. Quick decision-making: Unitary government can take quick decision as it does not have to take regional interest into consideration or it does not have to consult with the regional government. No complexity arises in decision making.


5. Suitable for Small States: Unitary state is suitable for a state which is geographically relatively small and has a homogenous culture. For example, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.


Demerits of Unitary Government:

Just as unitary government has its merits, it has demerits too. They are:


1. Work load: As all the powers are vested in the hands of the central government, the central government has too much load of work. As administrators of the central government, they have to perform all functions and so they cannot pay attention to the welfare functions for the people due to heavy work load.


2. Unfavorable for the development of local leadership: In this system, power is exercised and decisions are taken at the centre. No scope is left for political participation at the provincial or regional level. As a result, local leadership cannot develop.


3. Negligence of local development and problems: Unitary government adopts unified plans or decisions for the whole country. But different localities may have different problems, and central government cannot take notice of all these problems. Moreover, as the regions are far away from the centre, central government can not understand and solve the local problems.


4. Unsuitable for large states: Unitary government is unsuitable for large states. In large states, language, culture and tradition differ from one region to another. These differences altogether cannot be tackled alone by the central government. In running the state, government has to face multifaceted problems. People become suspicious of the government. For this reason, separation may develop in the regions.


5. Center's arbitrariness: As all powers tend to be centered in the central government, it might lead to the rise of arbitrary behaviour of the central government.


Federal Government:

Federal government consists of more than one region or province. This type of government is based on the principle of the distribution of power. In this form of government, a part of state power and authority, according to the constitution is vested in the hands of the provincial government and the national matters are vested in the hands of the central government. Provincial and central government thus possess fundamental powers. Both run the governments separately and independently. In other words, there exists a dual form of government. India, the USA, Canada are examples of federal forms of government.


Work: Prepare a list of the characteristics of federal government.

Merits of the federal government

There are several merits of the federal government. For example:


1. It coordinates national unity and regional individuality: This kind of government creates national unity by maintaining regional individuality and differences. By recognizing regional characteristics and differences, these are fostered in this form of government. Thus unity in diversity develops.


2. It decreases the work load of the central government: In this form of government, power is distributed through constitution between the centre and provinces, relieving the burden of central government. The centre can perform its functions with ease.


3. It is conducive to solving regional problems: In federal system, regional government can easily comprehend and identify the problems of regions and solve these problems.


4. It increases political consciousness and helps the growth of local leadership: In the federal system, people are loyal to two governments and abide by two kinds of laws. Thereby, people become politically more conscious. This system helps to grow local leadership.


5. It helps to reduce arbitrary behaviour of the centre: Due to distribution of power between the centre and provinces, the centre cannot assume absolute power. As a result the centre has no chance to have any arbitrary attitude.


Demerits of federal government

Demerits mentioned below may be seen in federal government:


1. Complicated nature of rule: The organization of federal government is of complicated nature. It is like a government within a government. Consequently, complexities arise regarding the determination of relationship between the centre and province, distribution of power, law making and application.


2. Conflicts of power: In this system, conflicts may be created between centre and province or between provinces over the jurisdiction of power.


3. Weak government: Due to sharing of power, both national and regional governments remain weak. Quick and strong decisions cannot be taken during emergency. Decisions are delayed if opinions of the regional governments are required.


4. Fear of secession: Provinces are separate and autonomous in federal governments. Taking the advantage of this opportunity, any region or province may attempt to be separate.


5. Costly: As dual structures of government exist, the cost of administration increases.


Work: Compare the merits and demerits of unitary and federal governments.


Classification of governments based on the relationship between legislature and executive:

Legislature and executive are two important branches of government. Based on the relationship between these or on the principle of accountability, governments can be classified into two forms: parliamentary and presidential forms of governments.


Parliamentary Government

The form of government where the relationship between legislature and executive are close and the stability and functional capacity of the executive depend on the legislature is called a parliamentary form of government or cabinet form of government. In this system, executive powers are vested in the hands of the ministers. The party which wins the general election forms the cabinet. The trusted person in the party becomes the prime minister. He appoints ministers from the important members in the party and distributes portfolios among them..


Usually ministers are selected from among the legislators or members of parliament. That is why, this form of government is called the parliamentary form of government. Bangladesh, India, UK, Canada, Sweden and Australia have parliamentary form of government.


This kind of government has a constitutional president. But the cabinet of ministers under the leadership of the prime minister hold the real administrative power. In this system, the importance of the prime minister is the highest. In fact, the president does not do anything without the advice of the prime minister.


In the parliamentary form of government, the legislative council holds the absolute power. The cabinet including the prime minister are accountable to the legislative council for their activities. The cabinet falls if they lose the confidence of the legislative council. Besides a member has to resign if parliament brings a motion of no confidence aginist him/her. In this system the same person holds both legislative and administrative power, because ministers are selected from among the parliament members.


Work: Describe the characteristics of the parliamentary form of government.


Merits of parliamentary government

Merits of parliamentary government are the following:


1. Responsible governance: Parliamentary government is a responsible government. Here, ruling and opposition parties are both accountable to the people for their deeds.


2. Relations between legislature and the executive: As members of the executive are the members of the legislature, the relationship between these two remains cordial and friendly.


3. Status of opposition: In this form of government, the opposition is said to be an alternative government. In times of national crisis, both the ruling and opposition parties can solve problems through discussion. Opposition is an integral part of the parliamentary system.


4. Opportunity for criticism: In this system, the Members of the Parliament (MPs) both from the ruling or the opposition sides criticise the government. The government maintains self-restraint in its activities and tries to do good activities.


5. It gives a political lesson: Parliamentary government is run by public opinion. To keep public opinion in their favour, both ruling and opposition parties remain active. They engage themselves in debates in the parliament. Thereby, the people become politically conscious.


Demerits of parliamentary government

Parliamentary government has some demerits. They are:


1. Absence of stability: Parliamentary government may suffer from instability. If the cabinet loses its confidence to the legislature or loses its majority in legislature, the government collapses. This sort of situation might destabilize the country. For this reason, the parliamentary government is called tyranny of the majority.


2. Indivisibility of power: Legislative and executive powers are vested in one centre i.e. in the hands of the cabinet leading the ministers to be autocratic.


3. Too much partisan mentality: Parliamentary government is primarily a party government. In this system, the formation and stability of the government depend on the majority of party in parliament. Naturally the parties are given much importance. Both ruling and opposition parties work with extreme partisan mentality, As this government is a party government, many ministers are appointed in the cabinet without considering their competence and merit. National interest therefore is hampered.


4. Delay in decision making: In this form of government, after a lot of discussions and suggestions, decisions are made. Many activities are not possible to perform in time.


Work: Prepare a list of the merits and demerits of parliamentary government.

Presidential form of government

Presidential form of government is understood as that form of government in which the executive is not accountable to the legislature. The president forms the cabinet comprising persons to his liking. The president and members of the cabinet are not the members of the legislature. Ministers are accountable to the president for their deeds. The tenure of ministers depends upon the satisfaction of the president. In the presidential form of government, president holds all powers. He is the real

ruler and head of the government. He might either seek the advice of ministers or not. The USA has the presidential form of government.


Merits of presidential form of government

The following are the merits of the presidential form of government:


a. Stable governance: In the presidential form of government the president is elected for a definite tenure. During this time, he can not be removed without impeachment (impeachment is a process for removal of the president with two third majority in the parliament if he is accused of specific charge). As a result, governance stays stable.


b. Quick decision making: In this system, the president can take quick decisions without consulting with legislative council. In times of war, emergency or in any other crisis the president shows his efficiency in taking quick decisions.


c. Efficient governance: In this system, president and ministers do not have to engage too much in law making and they are not accountable to the legislature. So they can spend more time in matters of administration which makes the administration more efficient.


d. Separation of powers: In this governance, three branches of government (executive, legislative and judiciary) separately work and simultaneously keep relations among them. Separation of powers thus maintains check and balance.


e. Less reflection of partisan attitude: The voting of the members of legislature in passing the bill does not have any influence on the stability of the government. Partisan influence is less evident in this system of governance. The president places more importance on national interests than that on party interests.


Demerits of the presidential form of government

1. Arbitrary rule: All powers are vested in the hands of the president and the executive is not accountable to the legislature. Thus the president may turn into a tyrant. Since he is not obliged to seek advice from anybody, he can become whimsical and irresponsible.


2. Absence of good relationships between different departments: As the executive, legislature and the judiciary hold powers separately, they lack cooperation and antagonism arises among them. This kind of situation might throw the government into a fragile condition.


3. Rigid governance: In the presidential form of government, constitution cannot be easily amended. It makes this governance rigid. If any change is needed, it cannot be done easily. Again the president cannot be removed easily. Expected changes do not occur easily.


By studying this article, we have learnt about the state and different forms of governments along with their merits and demerits. Rather a mix of more than one system has created different forms of states and governments. The USA is a democratic state. It is a federal form of government under the rule of president. The UK is a parliamentary form of government with constitutional monarchy. Differences in the forms of state and government result from socio-economic conditions of the state, people's aspirations and practical conditions.


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