Classifying government

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[citation needed], 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; all with competing political-ideologies. 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. Every country in the world is ruled by a system of governance that combines at least 2 (or more) of the following attributes (for example, the United States is not a true capitalist society, since the government actually provides social services for its citizens). Additionally, one person's opinion of the type of government may differ from another's (for example, some may argue that the United States is a plutocracy rather than a democracy since they may believe it is ruled by the wealthy). There are always shades of gray in any government. Even the most liberal democracies limit rival political activity to one extent or another, and even the most tyrannical dictatorships must organize a broad base of support, so it is very difficult "pigeonholing" every government into narrow categories. A polity is a state or one of its subordinate civil authorities, such as a province, prefecture, county, municipality, city, or district. It is generally understood to mean a geographic area with a corresponding government. Thomas Hobbes considered bodies politic in this sense in Leviathan. In previous centuries, body politic was also understood to mean "the physical person of the sovereign:" emperor, king or dictator in monarchies and despotisms, and the electorate in republics. In present times, it may also refer to representation of a group, such as ones drawn along the ethnic or the gender lines. Cabinets in liberal democracies are chosen to represent the body politic.