Governments set the rules that citizens must live by. They also enforce those rules and judge conflicts between them. In the United States, the government is known as Congress, the President, and independent federal agencies such as the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Department of Justice. Governments at the state and local level have names such as school board, city council, or township board of supervisors. All governments are formed in order to exercise authority and make rules for a specific group of people or area.
Most people agree that there is a role for government in society. This is because there are certain things that only the government can provide in a sufficient quantity or at low enough cost. These things are called public goods, and they include national defense, education, and wildlife management. Governments provide public goods by raising money through taxes and then spending it on the necessary goods and services.
The other main job of the government is to protect citizens from internal and external threats. This is why governments keep armed forces and carry out intelligence activities. Governments also try to prevent the entrance of aliens who may be spies or terrorists and attempt to embargo the export of materials that might aid potential enemies.
One of the more controversial roles of the government is that it can create positive and negative externalities in a market economy. Positive externalities are those that benefit more than one person at a time, such as public education or health care. Negative externalities are those that hurt more than one person, such as overfishing or global warming. Governments can manage these kinds of issues by regulating the economy and setting tax rates.
Governments can also regulate the amount of credit that is available to businesses and consumers, thus controlling inflation. This is a form of price control, and it is the only way to counteract inflation caused by monetary policies.
A government that is able to protect its citizens, provide public goods, and manage inflation is a vital part of a healthy society. The role of government has changed over the years, but it is still an important institution.
The United States is a representative democracy, meaning that the majority of its citizens choose to elect their representatives to make decisions for them. The elected officials in turn form a legislative branch of the government called Congress. The Constitution of the United States divides the power of Congress into three different areas, called the Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary branches. The Executive branch is headed by the President, who is the Chief of Staff for the Legislative Branch and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The President also represents the country abroad. The President has many other responsibilities, such as signing bills into law and talking to leaders of foreign countries. The Executive Branch of the United States is composed of the President’s cabinet, and many independent departments and agencies.