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The Basic Functions of Government

The Basic Functions of Government


Government is the way that people organize themselves to accomplish collective goals and provide benefits for their society. Governments around the world seek to promote economic prosperity and secure national borders. They also serve to protect citizens and enforce the law. A variety of governments exist, with each country having a unique set of policies and procedures for governing its citizens.

Some definitions of government describe it as the system through which a nation, state or community makes and enforces laws. Others define it as the means by which a society regulates man’s interactions with each other, and that includes providing incentives to do good and punishing those who misbehave.

The first function of a government is to protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens. Government can do this by enforcing the law and imposing sanctions such as fines or imprisonment on individuals who break the law. Government can also serve as a provider of goods and services that are not easily or efficiently provided by the private sector. These include things like water, air, food and education. Governments can provide these goods by taxing or otherwise regulating access to them so that people do not take them all and leave others without access.

Another role of government is to regulate public access to certain natural resources, which are often called “common” goods. These are goods that all people may use freely, but that are in limited supply. Examples of common goods include fish in the ocean and clean drinking water. Governments can regulate public access to these resources by instituting taxes or other fees, and by providing other forms of subsidy.

A government’s third function is to provide infrastructure and other services that can be difficult or impossible for the private sector to deliver, such as roads, schools, police and fire departments, and medical care. Governments can fund these services by collecting taxes or other types of fees, and by drafting budgets that detail how the money collected will be spent. Local, state, and federal governments have different priorities in how they allocate funds, but they all serve to meet the basic needs of their citizens.

Some societies do not have a government, while others have a wide range of government styles, including dictatorship (rule by one person), empire (control through conquest) and communism (everyone gets what they need). Generally speaking, the more democratic a nation’s form of government, the better it is likely to be. In the United States, we have a representative democracy, and our Constitution sets forth the rules that guide how we should run our government. The Framers of our Constitution structured our government into three branches that must cooperate but also compete with each other to enact policy. This helps to limit the power of our government, ensuring that it serves the interests of its citizens. The best way to determine what our government should do is to vote for representatives who share our views and values.