The word government is derived from a Latin word meaning “to rule.” Government refers to the system of people or groups regulating an organized community, normally a nation. The term is also used to refer to the administrative apparatus of a particular state or region. There are many different forms of government, ranging from the monarchy of Egypt to the parliamentary republics of Europe. Each form of government reflects the unique cultural, historical, and social conditions of the area in which it exists.
A basic definition of government is the set of rules that determine how people may interact with one another and with nature. A government may consist of a single person (an autocracy), a group of people of similar characteristics or ideas (aristocracy) or the entire population as a whole (democracy). The type of government that is formed depends on the unique social and cultural conditions, economic organization, intellectual influences, and geography or climate of a country.
Generally speaking, governments are responsible for providing services that individuals cannot effectively provide themselves. Examples of these include military defense, police and fire departments, roads, public education, and social services. Governments generate money for the provision of these services by taxing people or charging fees. They can also borrow money if necessary. Often, governments redistribute income in the form of social benefits or welfare programs.
Governments have been a part of human history for thousands of years. The philosophies of how they should function and be structured have evolved greatly over this time. It is difficult to say what the future of government will be because it will be determined by so many unique factors.
Historically, governments have been concerned with protecting citizens from violence and the worst of life’s vicissitudes. Today, it is more likely that governments will be focused on promoting the social well being of citizens by providing food, housing, education, and health care. Governments should continue to protect citizens, but they should also invest in citizen capabilities to enable them to provide for themselves in rapidly changing circumstances. This will reduce the need for large and expensive government programs and services. Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying that the best form of government is one “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” This idea, however, was very new when it was first put forth in 1848. Prior to this, most people believed that the role of government was to serve the interests of wealthy, powerful interests rather than of the masses. It is doubtful that this idea will change dramatically in the future.