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Country Comparisons: Political Systems

The Democracy Index by the Economist’s Intelligence Unit examines the state of democracy in 167 countries: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and political culture.

The ideal seems to emphasize democracy and human rights with a level of individual economic security.

Democracy Index 2012

Democracy Index 2012 Greener, more democratic Redder, more authoritarian

The Democracy Index rates the U.S. as the 19th most democratic of the 25 full democracies. What do 17 of the 18 countries ranked higher than the U.S. (as well as 4 of the 6 countries ranking directly below the U.S.) have in common that is different from the U.S.?


All of the seventeen — Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Switzerland (with a unique twist), Luxembourg, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Malta, and the Czech Republic — as you can see on the index, are parliamentary democracies. And by all of our other measures, these are wealthy, prosperous, modern countries.

List of countries by system of government

The U.S. has a presidential system.

forms_of_governmentWorld’s states colored by form of government as of April 2006.

forms_of_government_legendThe main idea of a presidential system is that the people elect a legislature, but they also elect a head of state who is also the head of government, aka, the president. Often the legislature passes laws, including budgets, and the president administers them.

The main idea of a parliamentary system is that the people elect a legislature, and the leader of the largest party becomes prime minister. The budget is administered by ministers accountable to the prime minister.

How does a parliamentary system work?