Systems of Government


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Before you sit for your Social Studies exam, you should be familiar with the major systems of government. You won't necessarily be asked to identify these terms, but you may be asked questions that depend on your knowledge of them. For instance, you may be asked to name some of the terms and phrases related to a particular type of government. Here are some quick definitions of the major systems of government. Look them over and then take the practice quiz until you feel comfortable with the vocabulary. On the day of your test, you won't want to be puzzled by any of the reading passages!

  • Communism: public ownership of property; government control of economy
  • Confederation: loose collection of states; most power is held by the state governments
  • Democracy: citizens have individual rights; decisions are made by majority rule
  • Dictatorship: one person is in charge
  • Federation: group of allied states; central government has some power, but unified efforts rely on inter-state cooperation
  • Monarchy: power is held by one person, and it is passed on within his or her family
  • Oligarchy: a small group of military or economic elites is in control
  • Republic: citizens elect representatives to the government; everyone is subject to the rule of law
  • Socialism: property is owned by everyone as a group; wealth is redistributed so that everyone gets the same amount
  • Technocracy: power is held by a small group of skilled or knowledgeable elites