Two Models of Government by Dr Michael Arnheim

I few years back, I read Two Models of Government: A New Classification of Governments in Terms of Power by Dr Michael Arnheim. The central teaching presented in the book stuck with me as I found it profound and insightful. I mentioned the book in my Podcast episode on Vlad Dracula (available here: Podcast). Thus, I thought it reasonable to introduce the book here as well.

Historical Examples

The central thesis of the book is that a government of a nation is either a monarchy or an oligarchy or a mix of the two. The author presents a few historical examples.

  1. Monarchy taking up the whole pie. For example: The Roman Empire Principate and Napoleonic France.
  2. Oligarchy taking up the whole pie. For example: Classical Sparta, the Roman Republic, medieval France (the feudal system).
  3. A shared pie, with a larger sliced going to the monarchy and a smaller piece going to the oligarchy. For example: Ancient Greek tyrants, Louis XIV’s France. Louis XIV is also known as the Sun King – an exceptionally glorious title.
  4. A shared pie, with the larger slice going to the oligarchy and a smaller piece going to the monarchy. For example: Medieval France (listed here as well as above), England between 1066 and 1689, Japan for most of the time between 1185 and 1868.

Dracula and the Boyars

As I noted in the Podcast episode, Dracula, upon assuming power (his second reign), knew that he had to bring the boyars to heel. He did so in a brutal fashion, thus (roughly speaking) changing the Wallachian power-structure from being dominated by an oligarchy to being dominated by a monarch – in this case Vlad as voivode.


Much more can be said about the book, this shorter review can be seen as a complement to the Podcast episode. In conclusion, I can definitely recommend Two Models of Government for any student of history.

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