Government is the system of rules and laws that a country or community has to live by. It also protects and provides goods and services that benefit all people in a society. The word government comes from the Latin verb gover, meaning “to control.” Merriam-Webster defines it as, “a system of ruling or controlling, a sovereign power.” Governments have evolved over time, and they have many different forms. The most recognized forms include democracies, totalitarian regimes, and authoritarian systems with a variety of hybrid forms.
The United States is a representative democracy, meaning that citizens elect a group of people to make laws for them. This group is called Congress, and it includes the Senate and House of Representatives. Congress has three main functions: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative branch makes laws, and the executive branch carries them out. The judicial branch interprets the laws, and it can overturn unconstitutional actions by the executive or Congress.
A major role of government is to provide stability and basic services, like police departments, fire departments, and public schools. The government also regulates the economy and protects property. Governments can only do these things if they have money, which they get by taxing people on their income, property, or sales. Governments also draft budgets to decide how to spend the money they collect. On the local level, this means funds are allotted for education, police and fire departments, and maintenance of public parks. On the national level, this means defense, social security, and pensions for veterans.
In addition to protecting the nation’s people and providing basic services, governments protect a nation’s resources, such as water, fish in the sea, clean air, and the land. These are called public goods because everyone can use them, but they are not available in large enough quantities or at low enough costs for private businesses to supply them.
Governments also have a role in educating the population, preventing disease, and promoting prosperity. They do this by setting standards for school curriculum and ensuring that all students have access to high quality education. Governments also prevent pollution, and they set regulations to keep our food, water, air, and the wildlife safe. This includes requiring manufacturers to test chemicals before they put them on the market and banning dangerous ones, such as DDT and PCBs.
The United States’ government is built on the principle of checks and balances. Each branch of the government has its own role and powers, but they work together to create a system that works well for all. In the federal system, the legislative branch is Congress, the executive branch is the President and his Cabinet, and the judicial branch is the Supreme Court and lower courts. This helps ensure that the government will not overstep its bounds.