The Basics of Government

Government is a group of people that has power to rule in a territory. This territory may be a country, a state or province within a country or a region. Governments make laws, rules and regulations, collect taxes and print money. They also have monopolies on the legal use of force and a police force to enforce those laws. Governments provide public goods and services, such as national defense, education, water, food, health care and public transportation. Governments can also create a structure for economic growth by spending money or borrowing funds to stimulate investment in a particular industry or project.

Governments can play a role in market economies by providing certain kinds of goods and services that are not easily replicated or provided by private enterprise, such as national defense, environmental protection, the definition of property rights and redistribution of income. There are some other roles governments can play in market economies, such as helping to stabilize the economy and responding to disasters and emergencies. Governments can also help manage externalities, such as pollution and overfishing, and social inequality and market failures.

When asked to evaluate their governments, Americans give positive ratings for the jobs they believe government is doing in protecting the nation from terrorism and natural disasters, keeping medicines safe, providing affordable housing and helping people get out of poverty. But when asked to rate their government’s performance in other areas, such as reducing income inequality, handling immigration and addressing threats to the environment, the public is less positive.

While the size and function of government has changed over time, the basic idea remains the same. Adults elect a group of people out of everyone in the country to make laws for the whole population, which is called a representative democracy. In the United States, this group is Congress, and it is made up of two parts, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The founders of the United States designed this system so that each branch of government has a set of exclusive powers, and they are separated from one another by checks and balances to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a few.

The legislative branch is responsible for enacting laws and appropriating the funds necessary to run the government. The executive branch is responsible for implementing and administering the law, as well as the policies that the legislature enacts. The judicial branch is responsible for interpreting the Constitution and laws and resolving disputes between citizens or between the other branches of government. This system of separation of powers ensures that no one branch of government has too much power and prevents the government from making laws that are unpopular or unwise. This makes it possible for citizens to influence the development of legislation from its initial ideas through the various stages of the policymaking process. For example, if Congress passes a law that a citizen disagrees with, the citizen can work to persuade the president to veto it.