A reply to the question: “what type of government does the U.S. have”? – The rise of ‘government-by-policy’

Here’s an interesting thought:

Recently, I’ve heard someone ask the question “what type of government does the U.S. have?”  Generally, the reply is a democracy or, sometimes, a republic.  These, to me, are generic and patriotic responses to something that is far more complicated.  These are far too simplistic and limited, I felt.  My automatic response to this question, I think, was rather interesting.  This is what I said:

The U.S. government appears to be made up probably all the forms of government you can think of.  That is to say, it is a conglomeration of political forms.  The reason for this is that the government is so big and massive and has so many functions.  This makes it so that any one form of government simply cannot work . . . it needs the variety different forms of government offers.  As a result, many forms of control and organization have to be used.  It is not just one form.  Though we may say its a democracy or a republic, only a small part of the government actually works that way, and often for only part of the time.  It actually takes many forms to make it work.  Here are some examples of different forms of government found in the U.S. government:

  • A democracy.  There are times when people vote but this is far less influential than people think.
  • A republic.  In many functions of this government elected officials help determine what happens, but this applies to far fewer situations than people may realize.
  • Constitutional government.  There are aspects where the Constitution determines how things are to be done.
  • A monarchy.  The affairs of the President, in actuality, often resemble a monarchy ascribing powers and functions to the President that may not be accepted under democratic, republic, or constitutional theory.  This same point of view is often taken for anyone in charge.
  • A theocracy.  In some areas of the government the belief of democracy and freedom are treated like a religion, inspiring and determining what it does and how it behaves.  In other words, they worship their political idea.
  • A despotism.  In many cases, the government does what it wants whether you like it or not. Many functions of the government could not work if it didn’t.
  • A tyranny.  Some departments of this government can be described as a tyranny where one person has complete control over others. This can even become a form of abuse.
  • Totalitarianism.  Some areas, such as the military, require total submission or you could get into a lot of trouble.

More often than not, several different forms are blended together, depending on what you’re doing and where you’re at in the government.  This would make the U.S. government a ‘multifaceted government style’ of government, using many forms (I actually have written an article on this called “Thoughts on the problem of a ‘one government system’ – Multifaceted Government” which restates many things I’ve written above).   

The different forms of government are often found in different departments, functions, or aspects of the government.  For example, one branch of the government may be republic-like but another branch may be despotic.  In that sense, the different departments, functions, or aspects behave much like a “government within a government” using its own government style to serve its purpose and function.  These may even be in the same building.  Sometimes, the different forms are only seen at certain times, such as at voting time (democracy) or establishing a government law or policy (constitutional government). 

Because this government is multifaceted, and there are so many forms of government, it appears that one form of government doesn’t seem to dominate necessarily (By ‘dominate’ I mean what keeps it running and going and which keeps everything in line).  In actuality, what does seem to dominate does not seem to be any traditional government form at all.  In other words, a ‘multifaceted government’ requires something greater than “government” to control it!  It needs something more solid to hold it together, something rigid and mechanistic.  It requires rules, regulations, policies, procedures, etc. to keep it all under control.   This would mean that the U.S. government is not actually run by a form of government at all.  It is actually being run and controlled by rules, regulations, and policies.  In effect, they determine what happens, what people do, what people can’t do, how things are to be done, what can be done, what can’t be done, what government form is to by used, how each government form will work, how the voting will be done, etc.  It is the glue that binds it all together and prevents it falling apart.  If this is the case then it would make the U.S. government a government-run by rules, regulations, and policies.  This means that all the different government forms are subsidiary to rules and regulations, at least in some way (though I’m sure there are cases where it may have no influence as well). 

This suggests, then, that there is developing a new form of government as a result of the growing complexity and size of modern governments and the rise of ‘multifaceted government’.  It is not a government at all, in actuality, but more of a glue, it holds all the government forms together and determines what they do.  I’ll call it ‘government-by-policy’

In many ways, this change to ‘government-by-policy’ has taken away our power and influence and, in some sense, made some of the traditional forms useless or less effective. 

It’s also turned government into something more like a machine.  In many ways, one can compare ‘government-by-policy’ to a computer.  The rules, regulation, and policy are like the program.  Once started they run on their own.  Just as with a computer, people can make entries and other things but the program really runs the show.

It’s also created a government where no one is in control.  This is because policy is running it.  I’ve always said that “no one runs the American government”.  There is really no one in charge, not even the President, not even Congress . . . they just make an occasional influence.

With this emphasis on policy I have always felt that the way to change things is not necessarily by the techniques of the traditional government forms but by changing the rules, regulations, and policy of the ‘government-by-policy’.  But how does one change it?  In a way, that is the problem. 

The ‘government-by-policy’ is a government-run by written words (or their interpretations).  It’s a government set in books, determined by the books.  The question is “how does one change the books?”  I often feel that the people who are able to change the books have the real power in a ‘government-by-policy’.  Each department or government institution no doubt has different ways this can come about so there is no one single solution.  Some may use traditional government forms, such as voting, to change the books.  Some may require just someone with a strong personality.  Some may just require getting a board of people to make the change.

The rise of ‘government-by-policy’ may show that the traditional government forms are, really, out-dated.  This shows the fact, I think, that we need to look beyond our traditional views of what a government is.  I have always felt that government has gone way beyond the traditional forms and that we need to look at government with new eyes and new interpretations.  Its simply not working in the traditional way.


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Government and politics, Historical stuff, The 'system', 'systemism', and the power structure, The U.S. and American society and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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