Governments define and control the rules of life for the people in a country. They also provide stability and security, in the form of military defense and police and fire departments. They also supply public goods and services, like mail service and education. They may even offer food, housing, and health care for poor citizens. These things are called public goods because the money to fund them is collected from all citizens, rather than just a few people. Governments do these things through taxation, which is the collection of fees for services or products. Governments have a number of ways to collect taxes, including income taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes. They also draft budgets to decide how to spend the money they collect. Governments often redistribute the money they collect from some of the people in society, by paying unemployment benefits or providing benefits for seniors and the disabled.
Government is usually seen as a force for good, but some people believe that it shouldn’t have any power at all. Others think that governments should be able to solve problems that market forces can’t, such as environmental pollution. However, there is no agreement about what limits should be placed on government power.
One of the biggest debates about government is how much power it should have over the economy. Some people think that government should control all economic activity, but most economists agree that it should only regulate certain things, like the amount of money banks have to keep in reserve. Governments also regulate how much people pay in taxes and what kind of services they receive, such as healthcare and education.
Most governments have a legislature, executive branch, and judiciary. The legislative branch is the body that makes laws, and people who work in this branch are often referred to as legislators (Americans) or MPs (British). At the local level, city councils oversee city legislatures. City governments may also have municipal courts, which hear cases that don’t involve serious crimes. People who have violated state or national laws go to higher-level district or circuit courts.
A constitutional republic has three branches of government, ensuring that no one person or group has too much power. The executive branch, consisting of the president and major departments of the cabinet, enforces the laws made by Congress. Congress passes bills through two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bills must be approved by both chambers and signed by the president to become law. Congress can override the president’s veto by passing the bill again with a two-thirds majority in each chamber.
The judicial branch reviews and upholds laws passed by the legislature and the executive branch. It also determines whether the rights of citizens have been violated and tries to protect against fraud or mismanagement. The judiciary branch can punish individuals or corporations that commit crimes, and it can review the actions of private organizations that collect and distribute public goods.