The government is a system of people, laws, and officials that define and control the country that you live in. The government makes the rules and then it enforces them, and it judges any conflicts between different rules. Governments are generally concerned with what happens in public life, but some of the rules that they establish can regulate private activities as well.
The word government comes from the Latin root gubernare, which means to steer or manage. Governments exist in every part of the world and take many forms. Some governments are large and powerful, while others are small and limited. Some governments are democratic, while others are autocratic or socialist. Many governments combine elements of these models, creating a hybrid form that can be hard to identify.
Despite the diversity of government structures, all have one thing in common: they protect the people who live under them. For this reason, working for the government can be a rewarding career choice. Unlike the private sector, which is susceptible to economic changes that can lead to mass layoffs, the government creates jobs even when times are tough.
In the United States, there are three branches of government: the legislative branch, executive branch, and judicial branch. The legislative branch writes the nation’s laws, which are enacted by Congress. The executive branch makes sure that the laws are followed, and the judicial branch interprets the meaning of those laws. The framers of the Constitution designed these three branches as a collaborative checks-and-balances system to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful.
This system is not perfect, and it is easy to see how the power of the executive branch could become abused. But it is important to remember that it is the job of citizens to hold their representatives accountable, and they can do this by voting in elections or by contacting their representatives directly. Using these tools, citizens can influence legislation as it moves through Congress or the executive branch, from initial idea to final implementation.
Similarly, the judicial branch is responsible for interpreting the meaning of national laws and determining whether they violate the Constitution. This branch is made up of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. Using this lesson plan, students can learn how cases reach the Supreme Court and how justices make their decisions.
The judicial and executive branches are the most visible parts of our government, but there are many other departments and agencies. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency works to keep the environment safe and healthy by regulating chemicals like DDT (a compound used to kill insects) and PCBs (compounds that were once widely used as cooling fluids in electrical devices). The federal government is the largest employer in the United States, and most state governments employ a lot of people as well. Many of these jobs are in areas such as education, health care, and law enforcement. In addition, the government is a major purchaser of goods and services, making it an attractive employer for businesses.