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Often used interchangeably, politics and government are co-related terms, but they have different meanings.

A government is the institution or system in charge of operating the country, state, or municipality, while politics is the process of decision-making within a society. In short, the government is about structure, while politics is about relationships.

Politics plays a part in our daily interactions with other people and is not restricted to elections and political parties. Politics covers the way in which people make decisions about how to work together in all kinds of groups, large or small. In society, not everyone can get their way all of the time, so formal and informal systems are set up to allow decisions to be made.

Although the word is usually used in reference to large societies, such as countries, states, counties, or municipalities, politics can refer to nearly any aspect of day-to-day life, such as families. Just as there are differences in politics from state to state or country to country, there are differences in the power structures that are in play from one family to another. The husband may hold the power in one family while, in another, the wife would be in charge. Decisions are often made jointly by both parents, but what if they disagree? In some families, the children get a vote, but that is not the case in others. Opinions of older children who have proven themselves to be responsible are generally given more weight than younger or more irresponsible children. Within the same family, the power structure is apt to change somewhat over time. That's politics.

Who's in charge? Who has authority? In a fair society, the people in charge need to have authority, not merely power. Political systems work best when most people agree that those in charge have the authority to tell them what to do.

Who is in charge? In large societies, like countries, the answer to that question is that the government is in charge. In some countries, the government may be a single person while, in others, it is a group of people, but the government usually has the final say in decisions that concern those who are in charge of the government.

Until the end of the 18th century, France was ruled by a king, and people believed that the king's authority came from God. During the Middle Ages, the Italian town of Siena was ruled by a council of business people which changed every two months. In Ancient Sparta, there were two kings from different royal families.

The people who are in charge of a government need to have authority if they're going to tell people what to do, and trust that people will accept that. Where does this authority come from? In some governments, the authority might be a matter of tradition. In others, it could come from a higher authority, such as God. In many countries today, such as the United States, this choice is made through a popularity contest, known as an election. Theoretically, a government could be set up in which only the most intelligent people are in government.

If a government claims to have authority, it needs to have a good reason, and that reason needs to be accepted by most its citizens. When a government has both of these, it is known as a legitimate government.

Sometimes, the people don't accept that the current government is legitimate, and will demand a change. This could come about in the form of protests, demands, or even a revolution, all of which have the potential of forming a new government.

Throughout history, people have argued over which type of government is best. Governments have also changed, either gradually over time, or suddenly, as in the case of a successful revolution.

Over the time of human existence, several types of governments have existed simultaneously throughout the world, and that is yet the case today. There are several types of existing governments, and there are groups of people whose goals are to form or reform additional governments.

Various forms of government might develop on the basis of regional control, by power source, power ideology, socioeconomic attributes, geo-cultural attributes, or others. Within the basic forms of government, there may be various types. There are several types of democracy, for example.

Common forms of government include anarchy, aristocracy, bureaucracy, capitalism, confederation, colonialism, communism, democracy, electocracy, ergatocracy, federalism, feudalism, geniocracy, kleptocracy, meritocracy, military dictatorship, monarchy, oligarchy, plutocracy, republicanism, socialism, statism, technocracy, theocracy, totalitarianism, and tribalism, although, in practice, most governments are a combination of multiple forms of government.

Most governments today are administered by members of an established political party that coordinates the activities of associated government officials and candidates for office.


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