Government – The System Through Which Adults Decide
Government is the system through which adults decide the rules that everybody will follow. It makes sure the rules are followed and judges any conflicts between rules. Governments at all levels are made up of people elected to represent the people who live in a specific area or region. These people work together to accomplish goals and provide benefits that the people cannot do on their own. Governments come in different styles, but all have the same goal of protecting and empowering citizens to achieve their dreams.
How governments work depends on how they are organized and who has the power to make decisions. Governments can be of one person (an autocracy), a few people (aristocracy), many people (democracy), or a group of people with special privileges and powers (feudalism). In addition, government types vary by whether the country believes that safety is more important than liberty, which determines how much freedom of speech and press the country will allow its citizens.
In the United States, we have a democracy with a Constitution that protects our rights and guarantees that laws will be made by and for the people. There are three branches of government: the legislative, executive and judicial branches. When the founding fathers designed our government, they thought about how it should be structured to avoid tyranny and to help its members make good choices for the country. The separation of powers and checks and balances that they built into the system allow for many opportunities for citizen influence throughout the policymaking process.
One major job of our national government is to protect common goods like natural resources. These are things that all people may use freely, but that are in limited supply (such as fish in the ocean or clean drinking water). They must be protected so that a few people do not take all of them and leave others with nothing. Government also regulates access to other important resources, such as public schools, firefighters and mail carriers.
At the state level, governments allocate money for services such as local roads and bridges, education, health care, housing for poor families and managing wildlife resources. At the federal level, the President and his Cabinet handle big issues and are in charge of making laws and representing the country to other countries. The judicial branch is there to make sure that laws and the way they are enforced agree with our Constitution. They are like referees in a game and help ensure that the government is fair and equal.
All governments have to collect taxes from their citizens to pay for the services they provide. The type of taxes collected depends on the kind of government a country has and how it wants to be run. For example, if a country values security more than it does liberty, the government will allow its law enforcement agencies to tap the phones of its citizens and limit what newspapers can publish.