In political science, it has long been a goal to create a typology or taxonomy of polities, as typologies of political systems are not obvious. It is especially important in the political science fields of comparative politics and international relations.
On the surface, identifying a form of government appears to be easy, as all governments have an official form. The United States is a federal republic, while the former Soviet Union was a socialist republic. However self-identification is not objective, and as Kopstein and Lichbach argue, defining regimes can be tricky. For example, elections are a defining characteristic of a democracy, but in practice elections in the former Soviet Union were not "free and fair" and took place in a single party state. Thus in many practical classifications it would not be considered democratic.
Another complication is that a large number of political systems originate as socio-economic movements and are then carried into governments by specific parties naming themselves after those movements. Experience with those movements in power, and the strong ties they may have to particular forms of government, can cause them to be considered as forms of government in themselves.
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Famous quotes containing the word governments:
“And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)