What Is Government?


Government is the way a nation, state or community organizes itself to make laws and ensure people are treated fairly by those laws. In most cases, it’s impossible for people to live in harmony without some form of rule-making and enforcement. Government also protects certain goods and services, called public goods or toll goods, that everyone can use but that the market is not capable of providing in sufficient quantities or at low enough costs to meet the needs of all.

People vote for representatives to serve on their city councils, school boards and state legislatures. These elected officials create the rules and policies that run their governments. They also pass measures to raise money, imposing taxes on things like income, property and sales. Governments then use the revenue they collect to provide social welfare, law and order, defense and financial services for citizens.

Most of us have more daily contact with our local and state governments than our federal government. These governments handle everything from zoning to police departments to library service. They also write the laws that govern our country and enforce them with a system of checks and balances. This includes limiting the power of the president by requiring that he be nominated and confirmed by Congress before he can act, and giving him only those powers that he has explicitly stated in the Constitution. They also ensure that the national budget is balanced by overseeing state governments and balancing federal funds for education, health care and other programs.

Other roles of government include regulating and protecting the environment, building infrastructure, and managing the economy. Governments are also responsible for ensuring that people have access to education, medical care and housing. They also manage natural resources like forests, rivers, beaches and parks. And they defend the homeland by creating and deploying an army, and by signing treaties and participating in international organizations like the United Nations and NATO.

Many styles of government exist, including dictatorship (one person or small group with total control), monarchy (rule by a family lineage), feudalism (orderly pyramid of rule), communism (each according to their ability) and democracy (rule by the people). The United States is a democratic republic with a constitution. A key feature of this kind of government is that it is a representative democracy, meaning that people choose their leaders and are represented by those leaders in the decisions they make. This also means that people can change their leaders if they feel their representation is poor or they do not agree with their decisions.