Government is the governing body invested with power to manage a political entity or, more often, a State. It is a common term in the English language, but it can have different meanings in other languages. The word comes from the Latin locution gubernare, which means “steer the ship.” Governments can take many forms and are generally classified as democratic regimes or totalitarian regimes with various types of hybrid regimes in between.
The primary responsibility of government is the protection of its citizens from foreign invasion and from domestic criminals. It is also important to protect the people from the effects of natural disasters and from environmental hazards such as pollution and the loss of food supplies. Governments can play a positive role in society by providing social programs such as national medical insurance, public transportation, and housing for the poor. This is a controversial issue, however, as some critics argue that such programs can make the government an all-powerful patron of a special class or pressure group and reduce the sense of responsibility that individuals have to take care of themselves.
There are other areas of public policy in which the majority of Americans think that government should play a major role. For example, public opinion shows that most believe the government does a good job of responding to natural disasters and keeping people safe from terrorism. Many also support the idea of government providing a safety net for those who need it, such as through unemployment benefits and welfare programs.
A second function of government is the administration of laws, regulations, and public services, including schools, courts, police, fire departments, and military forces. Governments regulate businesses and industries to protect their citizens from fraud, corruption, and other dangers. They also oversee the distribution of resources, such as water and energy, to ensure that everyone has access to these basic necessities.
In order to prevent abuse of government power, it is essential for a nation to have a system of checks and balances. This includes a separation of powers and checks on the authority of each branch of the Federal Government. This concept was argued for by James Madison in Federalist 51, appropriately titled “The Structure Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances.” Madison reasoned that it is impossible to imagine politicians who are angels, so a system must be created that would limit their ability to grab more power than they should have.
The level of government that an individual has is determined by where they live and the preferences of their community. Typically, the lower levels of government are more localized, and therefore can make quicker decisions and pass more specific legislation. The national level, framed by the Constitution, is the top rung on the ladder. The next two rungs are the states and then the local governments. All of these rungs must work together in order to form a functioning democracy. In addition to checking and balancing each other, all of the levels must collaborate in order to pass laws that are consistent with one another.