Government Types

Governments make and enforce laws, provide security, maintain order, protect citizens’ rights and provide public services. Governments also organize societies and economies, and promote international cooperation. Governments are often divided into levels: national, state and local. Government types include monarchies, dictatorships, democracies and republics.

A nation is a sizable group of people united by common bonds of race, language, custom or religion. A country is a definite territory that has an organized government. There are a number of theories about how governments form, such as evolutionary theory, the force of survival and the rise of complex civilizations.

Most governments are formed through the election of representatives to city councils, state legislatures and Congress. These elected officials pass laws to govern their jurisdictions and raise money by imposing taxes on things like income, property and sales. The funds raised by these taxes are then used to provide public services, such as education, social welfare programs and roads.

Governments must be structured so that they are fair and equal for all people. They must make sure all citizens have access to education, jobs and medical care, and ensure that their children are safe and protected. They must solve problems that cannot be solved by market forces or individual action, such as pollution of the air or water. For example, private individuals can sue polluting industries, but governments are better able to bring together the many potential victims and persuade them to join in a collective action.

It is also important for governments to be able to function effectively, which requires a stable economy and a good system of justice. This includes a well-developed police force, fair courts, and a good education system. Governments must be able to handle issues such as inflation and stimulate foreign investment.

Some government critics believe that governments have too much power and should be limited in size, allowing more control by the people. However, most contemporary political thinkers agree that some level of government is necessary to solve problems that cannot be solved by market forces alone or by individual action, such as pollution.

The most common type of government is a democratic republic, which has a Constitution. It allows for the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches. The Constitution defines the rules of the government, and it is up to the citizens to make sure these rules are followed. The country or state also has a local government, which consists of district and village councils and panchayats. Each level of government has its own rules regarding the formation, missions and powers of the members. For example, a national government can only pass laws that are not in conflict with the decisions/laws passed by the level below it. To help understand these levels, refer to the Levels of Government Ladder handout.