What Is Government?

Government (plural: governments) is a system of people, laws, and officials that define the country you live in. It regulates your interactions with other people and the activities you can do. Governments set and enforce rules, but they also provide benefits for their citizens. These benefits vary by type, but all governments seek to accomplish certain goals, such as economic prosperity and secure national borders.

Governments are the systems that organize the world and allocate power in order to accomplish the goals of a society. They can be found on every level of society, from the local community to a global federation. The most important function of any government is to protect its people from external threats and to ensure their well-being. The government does this through a variety of means, including armed forces and police, and by enforcing a set of social rules. Governments at the local and national levels provide services such as public education, mail service, public transportation, housing for poor families, and food and health care for the elderly. Governments also protect common goods, such as fish in the sea and clean drinking water. They do so by ensuring that a few people cannot take everything that is available and leave others with nothing.

How a country organizes its government depends on what kinds of goals it sets and the values it supports. A government may be formed by one person (a monarchy), by a group of people in a select class (an aristocracy), or by the entire population as a whole (a democracy). It can be organized according to many different types of law: civil law, criminal law, administrative law, and constitutional law.

Most countries today have a democratic form of government. In a democracy, the representatives of the people make laws and supervise the executive branch. The Supreme Court and other federal courts review these laws, and the president, the head of state, represents the nation abroad. The executive branch makes sure that the laws are followed. It also controls the budget. It decides how much money to allocate for things such as state colleges and universities, maintenance of highways and bridges, and management of national parks. It also pays salaries and pensions to federal workers.

At the state and local levels, government agencies receive their funding from the legislatures, or parliaments, that they work for. These agencies can then spend the money on things they think will help their constituents. For example, a city might choose to spend its money on community centers that offer programs for children and adults. Businesses that have contracts with the federal government get steady and predictable income over a period of years.

The founding fathers of the United States created a Constitution that breaks down the government into three branches: the Legislative, Executive and Judicial. History taught them that if any of these branches became too powerful, it caused big problems, so they designed a system of checks and balances.