What Is Government?

Government is the way adults organize and assign responsibility in order to accomplish goals and provide benefits for the whole group. There is a wide variety of governments in the world, each reflecting unique environmental, social, cultural, and historical conditions and influences.

A key aspect of a government is its rule: how power is exercised and by whom. The founding fathers of the United States wrote a Constitution that breaks down the government into three branches: Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. Traditionally, this is called separation of powers and provides checks and balances so no one branch has too much control.

Among the many things governments do are make laws, protect people and their property, and provide services like education and health care. Governments also manage access to common goods like water, natural resources, and public lands. They regulate the use of these resources so that there is enough for everyone, and they collect money—taxes—to pay for these services and to cover other costs.

In the United States, we pay for government services through taxes that are collected by the federal and state governments. The money is then used to fund programs that meet the needs of the country as a whole. This includes defense, education, health care, and other national priorities.

The other thing that governments do is keep us safe by making sure that people follow the rules and laws they create. They help with this by having a police force to enforce laws and a military to defend the nation against enemies. They also have judges who make sure that the laws made by Congress and the President are fair and that the President follows the Constitution. They are much like referees in a sport and help to make sure that the rules we live by are being followed.

People also elect representatives to local councils, city and state legislatures, and Congress, who make laws for their area. They also draft budgets to determine how the money they gather will be spent on services. On the state and local level, this may include building schools, hiring police and fire departments, and ensuring that mail carriers can deliver letters to everyone. On the national level, it may include funding research, defending the nation against foreign threats, and maintaining the infrastructure for transportation.

It is difficult to categorize forms of government, as the boundaries between these classifications are often blurry. However, it is generally agreed that there are two basic types of governments: democracies and totalitarian regimes, and between these two, a wide variety of hybrid systems. Governments that are based on popular vote are generally considered democratic. Those that are based on hereditary succession and appointing their own members as rulers are generally considered monarchies or autocracies. There are also a number of other government-types that have been popular at different times in history, such as oligarchy, tyranny, aristocracy, and dictatorship.