What Is Government?


A government is the system of people governing an organized community, generally a state. Government is also the means by which organizational policies are enforced, as well as a mechanism for determining policy. Most governments have some form of constitution, a statement of the governing principles and philosophy of the organization.

Governments have many purposes, but they are usually described as providing stability and goods and services for citizens. Governments at the local, state, and federal levels all provide services like public education, police and fire departments, mail service, and food and housing for poor people. Governments also protect common goods—goods that everyone can use but are in limited supply, such as fish in the sea and clean water. Governments also regulate and ensure the safety of its citizens, both internally and internationally.

Most governments are structured to have three branches: the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. The legislature is responsible for setting the rules that the executive and the judiciary must follow. The executive branch makes sure that the legislature’s laws are followed by enforcing them, and the judiciary tries to ensure that everyone is treated fairly. Governments also create and manage international trade by setting regulations, tariffs, and trade agreements.

The founding fathers of the United States designed our government to have checks and balances to keep it from becoming too powerful or corrupt. They separated the legislative, executive, and judicial powers into distinct branches of the government to limit the power that any one person or group can have. This structure limits the ability of any one group to take over a country and control the people or their property.

Besides protecting its citizens, government has the responsibility of managing economic growth and providing social welfare benefits. This is accomplished through taxation, which allows the government to raise money from the people and use it for specific purposes like building roads and highways, providing medical and social care, and constructing buildings to house the various services. Governments also regulate markets by creating laws and ensuring that large corporations do not abuse their power in the marketplace and by upholding fair competition and consumer protections.

Whether or not a government is effective depends on the ability and willingness of its citizens to make their needs and opinions known to public officials. This is an important reason for the existence of democratic forms of government, in which the people directly elect representatives to make political decisions for them. This is a far different process from that of an autocracy, where the ruler is self-appointed, or an oligarchy, in which a select few people rule over the rest of the population. This explains why most governments have the form of democracy.