The Roles of Government

Governments are tasked with ensuring the economic prosperity of the country, maintaining secure national borders, providing for citizens’ general welfare (education, health care and infrastructure) and addressing issues of common interest like responding to natural disasters, fighting terrorism or managing pandemics. They are also charged with establishing the rules that govern society and the activities of its members. Government leaders and the policies they implement are what differentiate one nation from another. Where your government falls on the spectrum of democracy or authoritarianism determines how much your voice is amplified or minimized in discussions on today’s most important issues.

Traditionally, governments have been in charge of making laws and taking care of the people. But over time, the roles of governments have begun to shift. They have begun to outsource many of the tasks that they were once in charge of, like law enforcement, and have become more focused on providing the goods and services that their constituents need.

Most modern countries have some form of government, but there are many different types of governments. The main classifications are based on whether the power to govern is held by a single person or group (autocracy, oligarchy, and democracies) or the people as a whole (democracy). There are also various forms of hybrid systems that blend elements of different types of government.

The most important role that a government can perform is to regulate access to “common goods” such as natural resources and wildlife. These are resources that everyone may use free of charge, but they are in limited supply. If too few people take everything that is available, then there will be nothing left for others to use. Governments must be able to protect these resources, so that they are used in an efficient and sustainable manner.

Governments have the responsibility to manage “positive externalities” as well. Positive externalities are benefits that accrue to the community as a whole when a group takes an action, such as building a dam, that affects other people in ways that they can’t control. Governments must ensure that these positive effects are shared by the entire community.

In addition to regulating the allocation of resources, governments must also protect property rights and maintain stability within the economy. They accomplish this by taxing individuals and businesses in order to raise the funds needed to provide services. The laws that are created and passed by the government are usually based on a specific philosophy or set of principles. In the United States, for example, Congress passes bills and sends them to the president for approval or veto. The constitution sets the parameters for how these decisions are made, including a requirement that 2/3 of the Senate and House must vote to over ride an executive veto. In this way, a constitutional republic provides checks and balances to prevent one branch of the government from overstepping its bounds.