One of the most confusing things one can study is human government and economics. So after this little introduction we offer you the government match game to help you teach government types for kids.
The problem in understanding government is that every government is unique and none fit into nice neat categories. Political scientists, teachers and encyclopedias disagree on basic things like definitions. Confusing or not, government is also one of the most essential things a person can learn about since the government and economic system one lives under will affect the well being of a person more than almost anything else.
The Types of Government
There are three major types of governments:
- Anarchy: no government
- Limited government: constrained by constitutional law and deriving its power from the people
- Totalitarian government: arbitrary and unconstrained, deriving its power by force
All sub-categories of government fit under one of these three or are mixed, but leaning toward one or the other.
Some major subcategories of government are:
- Democracy: rule by the majority of the people in direct votes, with no safeguards to protect the minority (this type of government was popular in ancient Greece and always led to anarchy followed by tyranny).
- Constitutional Monarchy: a monarch with severely limited powers and elected officials under a constitution that protects the rights of the people from government.
- Constitutional Republic: elected officials and a Constitution that protects the people from the government.
- Monarchy/Empire: A powerful monarch who rules with the help of an aristocracy and has total power over the people and may arbitrarily enact laws or punish subjects.
- Oligarchy/ Dictatorship: In practice all dictatorships though they may have one person at their head are ruled by a small elite group, an oligarchy. They hold power by force and laws are made at the whim of the rulers.
- Theocracy: a dictatorship which claims its authority comes from God and that they act under the direction of God.
The Types of Economies
Sometimes economic systems are confused with government types and though they are closely related to government types they are not synonymous. For example a constitutional monarchy may practice either socialism or free market economics.
There are two major types of economic systems:
- Controlled economies
Several types of economies fit under these two major types:
- Capitalistic: individuals retain all control and power and responsibility in this type of economy, with very little government involvement.
- Socialistic: Government takes wealth from citizens by force in order to redistribute it to others for purposes such as education, health care, retirement funds, food banks, child care and so on. Government also regulates industries and standards heavily to meet the goals of the the political elite.
- Communistic: Government owns the means of production and controls all the wealth.
- Fascist: Government controls the means of production, sets prices and quotas, while ownership ostensibly remains to the people, though the people have no power to buy, sell, or trade freely.
- Mixed: Economies that contain elements of one or more of the above major systems. For example the United States is partially capitalist, partially socialist, and partially fascist in some sectors, leaning most heavily toward capitalism, but moving toward more controlled economies.
Government Match Game
Play this printable Government Match Game to get familiar with the major types of governments and economies.
Cut apart the cards, remove the cards in ALL CAPS. Place these face up on the table above the other cards, which you will place face down on a table. Take turns turning over two cards at a time to find matches between definitions and names of government and economic types.
When you get a match, place it under the ALL CAPS heading you think it belongs with.
For beginners you may want to separate economic cards from government cards for simplification. This game is suitable for about 10 and up.
And here are the answers. First, the whole thing laid out:
Now, because you can’t see the tiny writing on half the cards, close ups of each section:
- A discussion of governments leads into country studies. Study some of the countries that have the types of governments you’ve learned about.
- Learn about the constitution of your own country.
- A study of governments leads naturally to a discussion of human nature–the reason we have government– and religious belief. Discuss your own religious beliefs and how they tie to government with your kids. Do you believe people should have as much freedom as possible or do you believe people need to be controlled for their own good? Why? Which government and economic types fit with your beliefs most closely?
- The thing that may surprise you most from the above lesson (and possibly offend you) is that we placed “Democracy” under the “Totalitarian” heading. That’s because when most people use the word “democracy” they mean a government where people get to vote. But that is not what a democracy really is. (See the above definition.) Definitions matter because if people don’t understand the terms we’re using when we talk to one another, we will experience nothing but frustration and confusion. You can’t solve problems if you’re speaking different languages.
- For a complete government course for high schoolers and up check out Foundational Principles of Government on our products page.