The Dynamics of the Four Political Systems
It may come as a surprise, but all four systems of power in our world may actually all deliver the same results. All that is required is that the decision makers of whatever system make the very same decisions. And sometimes all do make the same decision indeed.
In our real world the same decision is only made by all when all nations are dependent on very specific conditions, and when all are trying to follow the most logical and beneficial path. In general, the remaining differences can to a large extent be explained by the different dynamics inherent to the systems themselves.
We all know that basketball games tend to have just tall players in the field of really important games and that basketball players would make most decisions with that high basket in mind. A small person would likely not benefit in a nation run by basketball players.
In another example from sports, we all understand that horse jockeys are lightweights, and that they'll focus on horse issues. On the other hand, sumo wrestlers depend on having a certain amount of weight under their bellies, and a light-weighted person wouldn't get very far in that sport. What we should come away with is an understanding that specific structures help specific people to succeed, while the structure then also blocks the progress of others who don't fit the specific system.
The opinions of those who do not fit a specific system are not important in those systems. In a dictatorial nation with just one governmental organization, for instance, several important societal issues may never reach the top. This stands in stark contrast with a system of ten parties — with all parties vying for your vote — in which all vitally important issues are known, discussed, and sometimes satisfactorily dealt with quickly by the decision makers.
So let's dig in: the two systems on the left side of the four displayed above have large sets of the population unrepresented (which is shown here as white), while the two versions that have a close to completely represented population are placed to the right. Notice how the left two versions are strongly directed by a top that is removed from the center, and that the two versions to the right are more center-based.
The dictatorship shows a top center that is in full control — the visual on the left. Even though the population at large supports this single center, the visual shows a tight neck underneath the top, because it is not easy for the people as a whole to communicate or be represented in this top. Yet, the top is also not way up high, since the people can move that single top, for instance, during severe food shortages or extreme price changes. The top would topple if it were too much out of touch with the needs of common folks. Still, the population at large is itself not represented in that center. The decision makers do not have to take advice from anyone but themselves.
The two party system — second to the left — shows how two parties competing for single full control move each other up and somewhat away from their bases to each of their maximum capabilities. Each party must stay in touch with its base, but the politically ideologies can be strong, and hang above and away from that base. Parts of the population are left unrepresented in their needs, while the majority of the population is enticed to go along with either one of the two parties. To win the center, spin becomes often more important than the facts, for in the end it is the win that counts and not the delivery of beneficial results to all; winning a seat based on a limited competition can take place because of superficial flaws in the other candidates, and not because of issues important to the population. Interestingly, incumbents have an easy time getting re-elected because they are better known, not because they are the best fit. As shown in white, some groups in society are severely under-represented or not represented at all. One population group, the swinging center not all that much interested in politics, decides very often what the outcome of the election is going to be, but the people elected may — in this system — not pay too much attention to who they are thought to represent.
The four party system — third in the picture row — has each party vying to represent a large but rather specific group of voters, identifying themselves with what are politically clearly-distinct issues. The four parties tend to not present themselves as the opposite of another party as is commonly done in two-party systems, but each go for specific issues of importance to large groups of voters. In general, no party will gain majority control in this form of democracy, even when this is possible. Each of the parties tries to become as large as possible by attracting as many voters as possible.
Four parties may not fully cover all the population's political wishes in every detail, but the competition for most votes as possible makes each party stretch its boundaries to fit as many voters as possible and in very specific manners. Spin is not that attractive in this system, because the voters' real desires are more front and center. Also, note that the single top location as found in the one and two party systems does not exist anymore in this system. Instead there are multiple political 'tops' per party, because the perspective of that what is best, the most, or the highest differs for different groups of voters. How smart a person looks or behaves is less important than the candidate's message. With cooperating parties to form a government, not one, but two political centers will see most of their issues addressed. Large nations with three to five parties can remain stable nations, while this system also gives political freedom to its voters by providing meaningful political choices; its governments stay more closely connected to the population due to basic competition among political parties.
The ten party system, to the far right, has the entire population represented, though some of the ten parties will never take part in a government. Still, by having many parties compete for seats, the four to six parties that have cooperated repeatedly in a variety of governments over the years will show a desire to cooperate, but each will also make sure to not let any of the other parties gain too many seats — political competition is truly strongest in this particular system where every vote always counts. To remain more important than the others, the parties must each stay their political course, possibly ever so slightly adjusting their agendas over the years to remain specifically attractive for the larger segments of the voting population. The governing parties tend to collectively fulfill the wishes of more segments in society than just their own segments to keep attracting as many voters as possible. In general, smaller nations can provide full representation and true political freedom easier than large(r) nations.
Smaller nations, often forced to follow the (economic) decisions made by the larger economies find themselves naturally more encapsulated. Therefore, they can withstand the outward pressures of the diverse ten-party system much better than a large nation, for most of the ten parties agree on certain national interests.
Germany during the interbellum — the largest nation ever in world's history with a ten-party system — may be the clearest example of a large nation not functioning well under a system of full representation. In the thirties of the last century, Germany's center parties (representing collectively about one-third of the votes) handed their political power to Hitler during the most severe economic crisis of the interbellum — even when Hitler also did not have a majority of the votes. It may be clear that large nations need stability to overcome global crises, next to having a choice as provided by the four-party system. The current German five-party system has more than shown its democratic success over more than half a century, and is an example for all large nations to follow. The creation of the European Union, but possibly more importantly the fact that the United States demanded that the European empires (Britain, France and others) give up their colonies after two totally devastating World Wars, contributed to eliminating the European race-to-the-bottom competition.
To be or not to be lead, that is a powerful question
To complete the picture of the four versions of power, a nation may also have an empowered person sit on top of the system in place. Having a leading person or persons take in his, her or their highest position of power next to one or two houses of representation is a paramount question for political systems.
Keep in mind that national leaders such as prime-ministers are not elected and they remain bound to the overall outcome of elected representatives, whether they are prime-minister in a two party-, a four party-, or a ten party-system. Since they come forth out of the single dynamic layer in place, prime-ministers (or Chancellors) do not need to be added as a separate form of dynamics to the visuals. Similar to hired or appointed mayors, prime-ministers are like managers — people keeping the elected representatives engaged towards a positive outcome. These managers have as job to work in concord with the political outcome of the general elections.
Elected mayors, governors and presidents, however, are separate political entities; the race in which they were selected is a separate race, and by its very nature related to the dynamics of the two party system of winner-taking-all. One person (most often male) wins, and one runner-up (also most often male) loses. Elected leaders are more removed from what the population politically desires for they are chosen in the largest possible district — the entire nation. We can state that the largest possible number of voters is therefore not represented by this overall figure.
Not only does the selection procedure between just two people warp the outcome of who is the single representative of the entire nation, having that additional layer of power means that two levels of voter-expressions are set up simultaneously, each able to undermine the other level at times, often in important ways. Since these elected presidential leaders are empowered themselves — they won the national race — they are shown in the three visuals in their own separate visual.
The placement of the president is not necessarily always that much higher than the overall system in place. Interestingly, when a nation is already set up for winner-takes-all in all its elections, then one can argue that the president is 'merely' the highest person among all these winners. All representatives may behave as winners, giving the top-dog winner a tough fight to get away with what he wants.
Now add a president on top of a field where a variety of parties exists. Building a coalition means the coalition partners must bow somewhat to another party to both lead the nation. So coalition partners that must bow to a president may bow a lot deeper than representatives in nations where all reps are winners.
The president's role of influencing the outcome surely depends on the system-political circumstances. And data shows that the gap in income distribution is indeed in general greater when a nation has an additional system for a president. And when an empowered president presides in nations with proportional elections the income distribution gap may even be greater.
The last aspect of political systems not yet dealt with in depth is the number of houses of representatives. Some nations are unicameral, others are bicameral. There are even some nations with two houses in which each house is elected using a different system. In most nations with two houses, one house is the most important house, while the other is more a law-confirming institution. The result of having one or two houses, and — when two houses — of both being equally powerful or one house more powerful than the other, that is an issue of no small potatoes. Italy, for instance, has two houses with equal amounts of power, both capable of letting a government fall. It is then not a surprise to know that no other nation has as many cabinets fall over the years as Italy.
Several nations are shown here below with the visuals of their political dynamics; the white ovals portray the level of non-representation of the population due to lack of options materializing in the process. Some nations have not changed their political dynamics in centuries, others have done so recently. New Zealand, for instance, changed its two party system in 1996 to also incorporate proportionality and this resulted in very interesting outcomes.
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