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Civics is the science of comparative government and public trust - the theory of governance[?] as applied to state institutions. It is usually considered a branch of applied ethics and is certainly part of politics.

When applied to cities, it is often difficult to distinguish from theories of urban planning. When applied to rural areas, it is difficult to distinguish from rural development[?]. Its history dates back to the earliest theories of these by Plato in ancient Greece and Confucius in ancient China. These in general have led to modern distinctions between 'West' and 'East', and very different concepts of right and justice and ethics in public life.

Of special concern are the design of an electoral system and ongoing electoral reform, comparing voting systems, distribution and the decentralization of political and legal power, control of legal systems and adoption of legal codes, and even political privacy - seen as important to avoid a dystopic carceral state. Each of these concerns tends to make the process of governance different, as variations in these norms tends to produce a quite different kind of state.

Modern human development theory attempts to unify ethics and small-scale politics with urban and rural economics of sustainable development. Notable theorists including Jane Jacobs and Carol Moore argue that political secession of either cities or distinct bioregions and cultures is an essential pre-requisite to applying any widely shared ethics, as the ethical views of urban and rural people, different cultures or those engaged in different types of agriculture, are irreconcilably different. This extreme advocacy of decentralization is hardly uncommon, and leads to the minimal theory of civics - anarchism.

Most civic theories are more trusting of public institutions, and can be characterized on a scale from least (mob rule) to most (the totalitarian) degree of trust placed in key public institutions. At the risk of extreme oversimplification, an historical view of civic theory in action suggests that the theories be ranked as follows:

Note: examples are included only to help familiarize readers with the basic idea of the scale - they are not intended to be conclusive or to categorize these individuals other than the civics that they exercise or exemplify.

Civics refers not to the ethical or moral or political basis by which a ruler acquires power, but only to the processes and procedures they follow in actually exercising it. Thus, some figures, e.g. Napoleon, count as totalitarian because they instituted a legal code and altered rules of succession to favor themselves and their families. Meanwhile, other figures who were arguably more cruel or arbitrary are ranked as examples of lesser public trust, because in practice they followed clearer procedures. Some unique figures, like Mao or Stalin, are hard to characterize as they followed the form (but some would say not the substance) of consultation and deliberation - although disagreeing with these figures could mean exile or death.

See also: public trust, ethics, politics, mob rule[?], urban secession, secession

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