Modern: The United States of America
The United States of America is the most powerful country in the world. It was born on July 4th 1776 when Great Britain's American colonies made their famous “Declaration of Independence” from Britain, which was at that time a monarchy.
In 1789 the USA adopted a constitution which set out the powers that each part of the government would have. The main parts of the government are the President (currently George Bush Jnr – pictured), the Congress (which is like the UK House of Commons and House of Lords) and the Judiciary. The Constitution has strict rules about what each part of the government can do, for instance only the Congress can declare war or put up taxes, the President can not.
The President is elected for four years. The upper house of the Congress is called the Senate and it is elected for six years; the lower house, called the House of Representatives, is elected for two years. All Americans can vote in all elections.
The Constitution also contains a “Bill of Rights” which guarantees certain rights for all the people. These rights include the right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from torture and, perhaps most famously, the freedom to carry a gun!
The United States has a federal system of government. It is made up of 50 states such as California, Texas and Alsaka. Each of the states is like a mini-democracy and can make its own laws unless these conflict with the laws of the United States government. Many of the states, like California where Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor, hold referendums in which all the people can vote to decide what to do about a particular issue. For example in November 1996 the people of California decided in a referendum that cannabis should be legalized but only for medical use.