Channel 4 Learning


Who rules //

Political systems: Power to the People?

How are people ruled?

The government. It's all about politics and stuff, isn't it? Old men in suits shouting at each other. They haven't got a clue about real life and real people. Politics is nothing to do with us. Or is it? What if you were told that the law had been changed and as of next week under 18s had to be in their homes by 5pm every day? If not, they would be arrested and their parents fined. Would that affect you? Maybe.

What if at the same time girls were banned from going to school and from wearing trousers? What if boys had to serve in the army for two years once they reached the age of 16? Would that affect you? Probably. But what's that got to do with the government and politics? These examples might seem a bit extreme but they can happen and in some places they have.

Politics - powerful stuff

Decisions about your rights and laws are taken every day by the government. It's all to do with the power the government has, how it gets it and, most importantly, how it uses it.

The reality

But what about reality? What about you, right here and right now? How does politics affect your life? OK, what do you do if you're ill? You probably go to your local doctor. How much does it cost? Nothing. What about medicines and pills? In the United Kingdom (UK) they're all free as well if you're under 18. But how do doctors manage to do their jobs if they don't charge? How can chemists give out free medication to under 18s?

The money must come from somewhere. It comes from the government. So does the decision to provide free healthcare. Where does the government get its money from? Every single one of us! It's not just health. Politics and the government influences what you wear, where you go, what you read and what you watch on TV. In fact, politics and the government affect just about every little bit of your life whether you notice or not.

Political systems

Political leaders

All countries have governments, but they're not all the same. Countries have different ideas about how their governments should work and how much power and influence they should have over people's lives. The different ways of running a country are called political systems.

There are two main political systems: democracy and dictatorship. There are big differences between the two but also differences within them.