Government and Its Responsibilities

Government is the system of rules and laws that a nation or community follows. It protects citizens from outsiders and provides for their well-being and happiness. It also makes sure everyone is treated fairly by the rules.

People formed governments as they discovered that it was easier to defend themselves if they worked together in groups. Governments also evolved as people recognized that one person or group had the right to rule over another.

In modern times, governments are based on democratic or republican systems. The responsibilities of the different levels of government are similar: creating and enforcing social and economic rules, defense, foreign policy, education, health care, taxes, and public services. The differences are in how those responsibilities are executed, how laws are made, and who is in charge.

The United States has three governmental branches: legislative, executive, and judiciary. The Constitution outlines how these branches work and interact. The legislative branch, known as Congress, makes the laws of the country. The executive branch implements those laws and makes them into reality. The judicial branch interprets those laws and decides whether they are constitutional.

To make law, Congress passes bills that outline a new law or change to an existing law. Those bills need to be approved by the President to become law. If a President does not approve of a bill, it is vetoed and the President can try to convince Congress to override the veto with two-thirds votes from each chamber. The judicial branch interprets the laws passed by Congress and other branches of government.

This system of checks and balances is what separates our Federal government from some other countries’ governments. It also allows for the people of the United States to have a say in how their country is run. The President can issue Executive Orders, or proclamations that have the force of law, but the judicial branch can overturn those rulings as unconstitutional. The President can nominate Supreme Court justices, court of appeals judges, and district court judges. The Senate in the legislative branch confirms those nominees. Congress can impeach those judges if it is found that they have committed crimes.

The United States is a constitutional democracy, and our Constitution defines the responsibilities of our three branches of government. The legislative branch is split into a smaller upper chamber called the Senate and a larger lower chamber, the House of Representatives. Those two chambers make State laws and fulfill other governing responsibilities.