What Is Government?

Government is the means by which a country’s citizens exercise control over themselves and their affairs. Governments can take many forms, reflecting such things as a country’s environment and history as well as its cultural, intellectual and philosophical influences. Governments are also influenced by the type of political system they operate under.

Traditionally, governments provide services like public education, fire fighting and mail delivery as well as laws regulating the use of natural resources such as lands and wildlife. Governments may also make rules about property and crime, which helps protect people’s interests and safety. Governments at the national and local levels often allocate money to things like state colleges and universities, road maintenance, and wildlife management. Governments also provide social programs like unemployment and medical insurance to help the neediest.

Governments also play an important role in a country’s economy by helping to define and enforce property rights, set taxes, and redistribute wealth. They can also set rules about trade and commerce, which helps make markets more competitive. Governments also regulate access to “common goods” like air, water and food, which are limited in supply, so that everyone has an opportunity to use them. For example, if a house in the community catches fire, the government fire department will put it out without demanding payment from the family living in that home.

At the same time, many Americans believe that a government’s responsibility to its citizens includes providing for their welfare. This concept has been developed through a variety of government initiatives, such as President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs and President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs. Some people have criticized these programs as expensive ventures that destroy the individual’s sense of personal responsibility for their own lives, but others believe that the government should be responsible for providing assistance to its citizens in times of need.

In modern times, the way a country’s government functions depends on such factors as its history, economic situation and culture. Some countries have more democratic governments, which allow for more input from the population in making decisions. Others have more authoritarian types of government, which are less responsive to the wishes of their people. Still others have hybrid systems that combine features of different types of governments.

A country’s government has three branches: the legislative, executive and judicial, all of which are required for a functioning democracy. The legislative branch makes the laws that govern a country, the executive branch puts those laws into action and the judicial branch interprets the law and rules on controversies that come before it. These separate responsibilities are called separation of powers and they make it difficult for any one group to control the entire government. These principles are enshrined in the United States Constitution and are used as a model by other nations who wish to emulate the American form of democracy. They are an essential part of the world’s political system and can make a big difference in people’s daily lives.