Political Science: Authoritarianism vs. Totalitarianism

Difference between nation, state, country, political system and government

A nation state is a defined territory occupied by people of a given cultural background. An example of a modern nation state is Portugal. Portugal is a nation state because the Portuguese; which is a distinct cultural group has occupied the defined territory over a long period of time.

The Portuguese form nationhood while the territory that frames area of political jurisdiction frames the state. A nation differs from a state in the sense that a state refers to a political entity while a nation is characterized more by cultural and ethnic characteristics (Perry, & Perry 343).

A nation state therefore refers to a political entity or territory under the jurisdiction of a given political regime and is characterized by a people of certain distinct cultural or ethnic characteristics. Additionally, modern nation states have one common culture, a constitution, a currency system and a distinct national language.

Each state or nation is politically organized in a given way. The way political institutions and political interest groups interact defines a political system. Basically, a political system is characterized by different interdependent entities that interact at different levels with the aim of advancing the good of society as a whole.

Basically, a political system defines spread of power and the interaction between the different power centers in a society. The key players in a political system are government and citizens. The citizen-government interaction revolves around optimal use of limited resources for the benefit of all citizens.

Government is a word that refers to the body or organ charged with exercising authority and jurisdiction over a state or nation on behalf of the citizens. The government, therefore, can be looked at as an agent that manages the sovereign state or nation.

As an agency, the government in modern states is believed to act in the interest of all citizens always. However, once citizens have subjected themselves to a government, they accept control and directions of the government with regard to public affairs. However, this happens in an atmosphere characterized by accountability, reciprocity and equity.

Proliferation of States since World War II

A nation can be described as a union of people who come together as one unit based on same language or culture. For example, England is a nation composed of English people. The English have distinctive language and cultural practices.

A state is a territory manned by one government that controls all within the boundaries on behalf of the people in the territory (Perry, & Perry 342). A state establishes a clear legal system that governs or directs operations. An example of a state is South Africa.

As already discussed, the nation state is where people of same cultural characteristics or background are under one political entity or state (Perry, & Perry, 1999, p. 168). A good example of a nation state as already indicated is Portugal. A country is a territory understood to be a sovereign state. The authority that has jurisdiction over a country is called a government.

Nation states increased in the international community since 1648 due to separation of state and the church. 1648 is a historic year that marked the end of religious driven wars. Due to religious conflicts there had been turmoil in Europe for over thirty years.

The signing of a peace deal at Westphalia affirmed self determination of nation states through separation of church and state. The peace deal directed that ‘citizens of the different nation states be subjected to laws formulated and promulgated by the governments of the nation states’ (Taylor & House 134).

As a result of this peace deal, modern European nation states developed or took shape. Each a people formed their own state characterized by their distinct language and cultures. Secondly, technological advancement especially in communication also augmented development of nation states as it made communication easier and faster.

World War II has a number of effects on the world. First there was a shift in the balance of power in the world. Europe, which had been a powerful center, was dilapidated. Due to post WWII dilapidation of Europe, it could no longer hold on to most of its colonies around the world.

For example, Britain had major colonies in the south and east of Africa. However, after WWII, its economy was failing and pulling out of expensive colonies was inevitable. WWII was also an eye opener for the colonized populations. It is after World War II that armed resistance against colonizers increased. As colonial territories got independence, the states in the international system increased.

Considering alignments in modern states, nation states are tending towards bloc formations for political and economic reasons. The EU is a good example or pointer to developments in relation to nation states. They are slowly joining together to benefit from a common market and increased military power. Therefore, the future is likely to be characterized by many associations of nation states.

Measuring Power of States in International System

Each nation state has some power that it exercises in the international system. Power of a state is basically understood in terms of level of influence a country has in the international system. The influence a country exercises internationally is dependent on a number of factors.

Some of the primary components of power are military, economy, technology, leadership, geography and natural endowments e.g. having huge oil deposits (Niou et al 147). However, the amount of power a country has is also dependent on collective support it can amass.

The power of a nation state is very important. For instance, the USA enjoys hegemonic powers because it is unchallengeable by any other power in the world. When it comes to determining international matters, the super power’s position is followed by others whether they like it or not. With power, it is able to coerce or intimidate others into towing its line.

Measuring the exact power of a nation is not easy; it is actually a sort of impossibility. Ray Cline developed a formula for measuring individual nation’s power. According to the formula “P = (C + E + M) x (S + W)” (Taylor & House 221).

According to Cline, the exact power of a nation is interplay between capacity of its people; the critical mass (C), the economy of the country (e), the military might of the county (M).

All the components i.e. C, E & M are subject to strategic interest (S) and the willingness of the country to deploy them in pursuit of national interests (W). The most critical elements in Cline’s formula are C; E & M; with those, a country will be feared and will have clout enough to pursue its interests at will.

The relative powers of nations based on their capability lead to their being categorized under great powers, super powers, middle powers and others. Super powers are nations of the class of USA. It has the military might, economic might, technological might and necessary personnel to single handedly defend or go after any interest around the globe (Niou et al 116). The middle powers are countries with considerable might and hold much regional clout.

Political Organization and Economic Potential

Politics directly affects the economy while economic interests drive political actions. In common practice, people engage into national politics as a way of protecting or championing for given economic interests. Therefore, politics and economy are directly connected or interlinked. The kind of political organization adopted affects a nation state’s economic potential; Investor confidence is largely dependent on political action.

The differences in federal systems notwithstanding, as already discussed, federalism enhances democracy. In a federal system power is widely distributed and there are more leadership opportunities. Economically, public processes are more decentralized thus addressing economic issues from the grassroots. Competition between the states forms a health backdrop for economic development.

The citizenry is empowered and thus participate actively in economic policy. Federations operate on basic democratic tenets such as reciprocity, mutual control and accountability that are likely to attract investors. Finally diversity in economic pursuits in different states widens the economic potential of a country unlike in a unitary state where only one policy is applied.

On the other hand, unitary state procedures are uniform, simple and not time consuming. In the international market sometimes fast decisions are necessary to capitalize on given economic opportunities. The bureaucratic kind of consultations in federal government is very time consuming.

Finally, the cost of running a unitary government tends to be lower than running a federal government because operations and systems are centralized. Therefore, a unitary government is best positioned to cut on administrative expenditure that can boost relevant areas in the economy.

States are either unitary or federal. Considering federal governments, there are two major categories. A country can adopt dual federalism or go for cooperative kind of federalism. Under dual federalism, different states come together to form a union. The union government or the federal government only exercises powers conferred on it by the independent states under it.

In this kind of arrangement, the individual states have more clout than the union government. The second kind of government is where the federal government is superior to the member states. In some cases of federalism, characteristics of union and cooperative kind of federalism are borrowed to form a flux. The extent of federal government powers depends on issue in focus.

Advantages of the Different Economic System

Each country has its own economic plan that defines how the government is to meet its citizens’ need for products and services. This kind of plan is largely referred to as an economic system (Pryor 54). In the world economy, there are three discernible economic systems.

The most favored and advocated for economic system is the market economy (Pryor 59). A market economy is where market forces determine the production and distribution of goods and services. The government plays a very minor regulatory role in a market economy. The second economic system is referred to as a planned economy.

In a planned economy, the government controls all major good and services production and distribution activities. Finally, there is the mixed economy that combines both free market economy and government control or protectionist measures (Pryor 160). Capitalist economies tend towards market economies while communist economies tend towards planned economies or protectionism (Pryor 268).

At the heart of capitalism is belief in each individual’s freedom and right to property. The market economy allows individuals to exercise their gifts and use their capacity towards creating goods and services that benefit the public (Pryor 160). The greatest advantage of a market economic system is that it allows for creativity. Creativity leads to development of unique goods and services that expand the economy.

However, the major disadvantage with this system is that it may compromise provision of essential goods and services. Individuals will go for goods and services that earn a profit instead of those that are essential.

Secondly, when a country’s industries are not well developed, a free market may mean death for the young industries. Finally, a market economy results into consumerism; where masses spend and spend while industrialists drive them to keep spending on things that are totally irrelevant.

The planned economy system is more in life with communist ideology (Pryor 168). It advocates for protectionism and government control of production and sell of goods and services.

A planned economic system leads to government controlling the economy and directing growth. This leads to more balanced growth as the government supports sectors that would otherwise be neglected. Protectionism ensures the consumers and young industries are protected by the government.

Protectionism kills investor confidence and creativity. As a result, many industries tend to stagnate as they are not representative of market reality. Unlike in the market economy where the market forces dictate processes, the planned economy gives control to the government. Government control stifles creativity thus stifling opportunities for economic expansion.

For many countries, a mix between a planned system and free market practices pays off. Protectionism is practiced in some sectors while free market practices are allowed in given mature sectors. A mixed economy ensures that weak sectors are properly supported by the government while allowing for trader ingenuity and creativity in sectors that are not sensitive or are mature enough (Pryor 173).

Hard Power VS Soft Power

Military power is an important element in a state’s power. With military power, a state can coerce and influence others. For example, due to military power, the USA invaded Iraq and topple Saddam then replace him with a US leaning or apologetic leader.

However, military power of a single nation continues to wane as individual countries join to find refuge in collective power. Through signing treaties and formation of alliances, small countries consolidate their military power. Alliances can be formed at any time leading to defeat of otherwise superior nations. When Iraq attacked Kuwait, USA came to its aide leading to defeat of Iraq which was militarily superior.

Due to mentioned facts and examples, countries are better off when they have more soft power than hard power. Soft power is the capacity a nation has to attract or elicit help from other states (Aydinli & Rosenau 69). Therefore, soft power is about attracting others as opposed to coercing others.

Countries develop soft power through refining their values, enhancing other friendly cultures, enacting proactive policies and establishing strong credible institutions.

The internal interactions and aspirations of a people become soft power if they are attractive enough and appeal to others. Beyond arms race, the cold war was a soft war. The success of the cold war was pegged on whom, between capitalists and communists can attract many allies to his or her side.

Differences between Politics and Government

Politics is a word used to refer to the process through which different interests are harmonized leading to a collective state policy, goal or aspirations. Politics is about different interests finding their space in national or state arena. The people who champion for the different interests are called politicians. The government on the other hand is an organ or authority charged with the implementation of state policy.

Political processes ensure that governments are accountable to the electorate. Accountability is about being liable to or being held answerable. Different interest groups champion for different interests which are encapsulated in the national policy frameworks. Governments ought to be accountable to the public. In case political accountability is not taken, the electorate uses tools like recall votes to hold politicians and government officials accountable.

A government‘s operations are guided by laws governing a country. Constitutionalism is an attitude or concept that captures supremacy of law over desires and aspirations of politicians. Political interests have to be within the confines of the law. All government policies have also to be in tandem with legal stipulations as given in a country’s constitution.

Popular sovereignty basically means that individuals in a given state approve of or consent to its sovereignty. Popular sovereignty can be expressed through a political process such as a referendum or through representative process. In totalitarian government, one leader may impose given ideas as the popular opinion. In democratic governments, popular opinion is always representative of all interest groups.

Due to different interests that inform government operations, rule of law is a must. The rule of law means that political processes and government decisions are based on the laws of the land. Anything that is in contradiction with the law is considered unacceptable and criminal. Therefore, when rule of law applies, politicians and government processes are all pegged on legal stipulations.

Democracy, Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism

Democracy is a form of governance where power lies with the people. It is the people who decide what they want and their interests are communicated or represented in national decision making through a representative elected by the majority (Perry & Perry 212).

Popularly, it is believed that a democratic government is an all inclusive government that respects the rights of individuals. The two major principles that guide democratic processes are equality and freedom.

A totalitarian regime is one in which an individual or small ruling class closely manages a state and ensures close control over public and private life (Perry & Perry 217). In such a state, propaganda is used to kind of brainwash individuals so that they think and behave as the rulers would like them to think and behave.

China is widely described as a totalitarian state. The communist party, which is the ruling party in china, tends towards controlling every aspect of people’s life. The government dictates and controls virtually everything even the number of children one can have.

Authoritarian regimes are those that dictate and citizens have no say in national matters. The dictator says and everyone has to follow the dictate without question. Robert Mugabe’s rule in Zimbabwe is considered dictatorial or authoritarian.

Alberto Fujimori’s rule in Peru was considered dictatorial and authoritarian as well. The two leaders used national resources and military themselves to entrench themselves. In both countries, are the law and what he wishes is implemented without question. Opposition is quashed violently.

Parliamentary and Presidential Governments

Democratic governments around the world exist either as parliamentary or presidential systems. In a presidential system, as is the case in the US, the president is the senior most officer in the land; in most cases he or she heads both the government and the state. As the chief executive of the country, only parliament and judiciary can check the president.

In a parliamentary system, there is a separation between head of government and head of state i.e. there two office bearers for the two positions. In Canada for instance, the queen is the head of the state and she is only a ceremonial figure while the prime minister (head of government) runs government affairs.

While the chief executive is elected directly by the electorate in a presidential system, in a parliamentary system, the chief executive is elected by parliamentarians.

Nazism as a Model of Governance

Nazism as a model of governance aims at nationalistic consolidation and racial differentiation. This fascist form of government was pegged on belief that a given race is superior to another. The likelihood of such a government resurfacing in the near future is minimal.

However, there are some fascist political parties in some countries. Biological technology may just make realization of the Nazism a possibility in the minds of some people. For instance, recent discoveries in cell development can be used in the formation of a biological weapon to enforce Nazi like ideology.


Communism as traditionally conceived might never be realized. The likelihood that class systems will be abolished and all property turned to state ownership is slim.

However, shades of communism will continue to inform government choices around the world. As populations soar and resources continue to dwindle, the idea of individual property ownership will be redefined. More socialism leaning policies are likely to be adopted by governments but pure communism is unrealizable.

Executive Branch and Policy Making

Policies are the plans instituted by governments to help in rationalizing governmental endeavors with the aim of assuring the collective good in a nation. It is true that the executive arm of government is better placed to formulate policies.

Good policy formulation requires proper in-depth understanding of issues of concern, which leads to devising proper solutions or response mechanisms. To achieve the in-depth understanding, a government needs institute studies whose findings can help frame root causes and possible ways of addressing given causes of problems. The executive controls state organs that can help in studying problems in depth.

Unlike the legislature that is composed of sectarian representatives i.e. individuals representing different interests, the executive is better placed to go beyond partisan interests and address national concerns. The executive also has the mechanisms to oversee implementation and evaluation of the policy programs.

In Canada, the executive i.e. the cabinet has more consolidated powers over policy formulation than in the US. This is because the executive has powers over the legislature as cabinet ministers also participate directly in legislative matters. The Canadian legislature is continually reasserting its powers through scrutiny of policies pushed by the executive that need parliamentary approval.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Separating Head of state and Head of Government

Separating office of head of state and head of government is important because it helps delineate clearly specific functions that an individual can be held accountable for. The Canadian prime minister is more accountable than the USA president because he does not have an institutional safety net behind which he or she can hide.

In the presidential system due to the chief executive being both a symbol of unity and a political actor, there is fear of holding him or her accountable for political action. Separation of the two offices helps towards the bearer of the office of head of state maintaining a proper distance from partisan interests thus remaining a uniting figure.

The USA system has proved that a president can go beyond sectarian or partisan interests to embrace national interests. However, this is more dependent on personal charisma than guarantees of the system. In often cases, the president is held in perceived agendas of respective political party ideologies. For instance, presidents elected on a republican platform will tend towards republican ideology.

The only advantage of having the two offices merged is to avoid creating to centers of power. In some instances, if the head of state starts to oppose the head of government, two centers of power emerge. Opposition between the two centers precipitates into more chaos than prosperity.

Differences between Canadian Executive and US Executive

The basic difference in the Canadian and US executive stems from the fact that the US has a parliamentary system while Canada has a Presidential System. In Canada, majority of cabinet ministers are also parliamentarians while in the US the legislature is completely removed from the executive.

Therefore, while members of the Canadian executive play roles in the legislature, the executive in America has no place or role in the legislature. When it comes to policy matters, the executive in Canada is able to directly drive policy through the legislative processes than is possible in the USA.

The US seems more democratic than Canada because there are more checks on the executive. Power in Canada is more centralized in the executive. Secondly, the US president has less control over the legislature than the Canadian prime minster.

Given the prime minister participates in the legislative processes; he or she can use his executive powers to whip members of parliament to support his or her position. Therefore, when it comes to matters of policy, the executive drives or controls policy change in Canada more than it is possible in the USA.

Comparing the Canadian prime minister and the US president, the Canadian prime minister is more powerful. However, while a dictatorial American president can manage to serve a full term because of law safeguarding tenure, it is easier to dispose of a Canadian prime minister who is not serving public interests; the governor general can just call for an election.

Executive in Authoritarian and Totalitarian Regimes

In authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, the executive considers its decisions and plans the best for the country and any contra idea a threat to national interests. Supremacy of the executive ensures the independence of institutions is compromised. Participation in decision making is minimal as the executive demand or whim is the law.

Authoritarian regimes tend to use covert and violent ways to arm-twist public interactions or create fear and suppress participation (Taylor & House 57). As a result, everybody tows the line and institutions do not empower individuals in them to check the executive.

How PMO, PCO and Board of Trustees enable Cabinet to Govern

The office of the prime minister plays a critical role of advising the cabinet or executive on governance issues. The prime minister as an individual is expected to have command over majority parliamentarians.

Therefore, in the exercise of his or her influence over parliamentarians or in parliament, he or she facilitates positive reception of cabinet decisions or policy interests. The office of the prime minister does all the important appointments in the government and practically is in charge of the country. The PMO ensures cabinet decisions or legislative interests as supported in parliament.

The Privy Council Office is secretariat constituted of cabinet members that focuses on national policy (Taylor & House 211). This office advice the prime minister and oversees intergovernmental issues. By coordinating intergovernmental issues and advising relevant ministries and prime minister, the office helps the whole government to work harmoniously.

The board of trustees looks into safeguarding national interests by ensuring cabinet decisions with regard to use of resources are in tandem with legal stipulations. The board of trustees advises executive at different levels on effect of policy on matters or issue of interest.

Works Cited

Aydinli Ersel & James, N. Rosenau. Globalization, Security, and the Nation-State: Paradigms in Transition. New York: SUNY Press, 2005

Niou, Emerson, M. S., Peter, C. Ordeshook & Gregory, F. Rose. The Balance Of Power: Stability in International Systems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989

Perry, John, Ambrose & Perry, Erna. Contemporary Society: An Introduction to Social Science. 9th Ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1999

Pryor, Frederic, L. Economic Systems of Foraging, Agricultural, and Industrial Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005

Taylor, Peter, J. & John, William House. Political Geography: Recent Advances and Future Directions. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 1984

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