I spent most of my life ignoring the greater political world, and realistically I’ve spent most of my life ignoring even the smaller political world. Or at least, I’ve pretended to spend a large portion of my life ignoring politics, but really, I’ve been a player in so many political situations that it’s hard to recount all of them. I didn’t really realize this until I was wondering the other day about the term “Democracy”, and that curiosity only came to be born when someone mentioned the idea that everyone was either a republican or democrat. I took what they had to say and considered it for a while, and then determined that even though I took my Government 101 class in high school like every other ‘good’ citizen, that I did not remember what the difference was, except for the idea that one was now considered ‘liberal’ and the other ‘conservative.’ (Honestly, it’s hard to remember which one is supposed to be which even on that level)

I did a little digging (read: 5 minutes of googling) and I came up with some definitions by the wonderful people at Merriam Webster, and also some other seemingly educated individuals; definitions which all agreed with each other. So, here are the types of government! (In brief)

Dictatorship: A form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator (one person) or a small clique.

Monarchy: A government having a hereditary chief of state with life tenure and powers varying from nominal to absolute. (Like a king and/or queen, whom are decided by only by birth)

Aristocracy: Government by the ‘best’ individuals or by a small privileged class. (or) A governing body usually made up of a hereditary nobility.

Democracy:  Government by the people; especially, rule by the majority. (or) An organization or situation in which everyone is treated fairly and with equal rights.

Republic: An organization/country/situation which is governed by elected representatives and by an elected leader.

(All definitions courtesy of Merriam Webster Online Dictionary)

It’s easy to see, now that I know what these terms mean, all of the political situations I’ve been in. I was born into a monarchy, since my parents are the hereditary rulers of their household. In school I was the citizen of a dictatorship, since all of the power rested squarely on the shoulders of my teacher. I was in a band once, where it was obviously an aristocracy, since the most talented and wealthy individuals basically told us what we were doing, even though they pretended like our opinions mattered. I live in a country that is (at least at first glance) a republic, since we have elected representatives and an elected leader. Actually the only democracy I’ve ever really been in that I can recall is my current relationship, where each of us makes decisions that equally affect the other person, and also we make a definitive effort to let all parties involved (two) to have equal say in any matter which comes up. Sometimes we switch to a republic system in the relationship, since we feel that one person or the other has a significantly more informed position in a given matter, and so one person is elected to represent the entire group. (Meaning, I talk to the landlords about our lease, and Samantha is the head of dealing with everything involving the wedding.) As a republic, it’s important to understand the importance of electing the right person for the task at hand. (I am frequently the elected leader of restaurant choosing.)

So yeah, those are the definitions of types of government, and some examples. Next time someone says they’re a democrat/republican, you can understand what they’re saying…even if they don’t.