What Is Government?

Government is the body that makes and enforces the rules that adults decide are right for their community. It helps them share resources and protect the people who live in it. Governments take on many forms. They can be simple or complicated, but they all have the same central function: to lead and protect their citizens. Governments have been around for thousands of years, and they come in many shapes and sizes. Some governments are democracies, where the citizens make decisions through representatives they elect. Others are authoritarian, where power is concentrated in the hands of a few leaders or political parties. But most governments combine elements from both democratic and authoritarian models, resulting in systems that limit some freedoms while protecting others.

In the United States, we have three branches of government: the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch. Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives are in the legislative branch, where they set the laws for our country. The President, Vice President and Cabinet are in the executive branch, where they carry out those laws. And the Supreme Court and other federal courts are in the judicial branch, where they evaluate those laws. Each of those branches works together to set and carry out the rules. But they also have checks and balances, so that one branch doesn’t run roughshod over the other.

The founding fathers of the United States designed our government to include these checks and balances. They set up the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches to prevent a single person or group of people from getting too powerful.

Each branch of our federal government has its own unique responsibilities, but all are equal in their duty to govern the United States and its citizens. Our federal government takes care of things like foreign policy, minting money and national security. It also provides some services, like education, health and welfare. The states handle other services, like taxes and law enforcement. Our federal government also has responsibility for the military, national parks and public lands.

At the state level, representatives elected by the citizens try to secure funding for the things their communities need. They may advocate for more public schools, maintenance of highways and roads or management of wildlife in their area. On the national level, money goes for things like defense, Social Security and pensions for veterans.

One thing that all governments do is regulate access to common goods, such as natural resources, so that they are not overused and unavailable for everyone. That is the role of government, and it is a critical part of our society.