The Basics of Government
Government is the system through which people organize to make decisions, enforce rules and provide services. Governments are found throughout the world, and each one has its own rules for how it is formed, its functions, and what kinds of power its members have. Governments vary in how much control they have over the lives of their citizens, but they all seek to accomplish certain goals. These include economic prosperity for a nation, secure national borders and the safety and well being of its citizens.
The type of government in a country depends on its history and the values of its people. For example, many European countries have a history of providing social programs for their citizens. These include universal medical care and extensive welfare benefits. Some Americans believe that government should provide these types of programs, while others argue that they are costly ventures that destroy the sense of personal responsibility for a person’s own well being.
Another important job of government is to protect the environment. For example, it helps to ensure that the water supply is clean and available for everyone to use. It also regulates public access to natural resources such as wildlife and public lands. These resources are in limited supply, and if too many people take too freely from their supplies, there will not be enough for anyone else. Governments also help to maintain parks and forests, and protect the health of the air and water by controlling the emissions from automobiles and other machines that cause pollution.
Governments raise money to fund their activities, and they distribute funds in the form of salaries to employees, contracts with businesses, and social programs. They can also borrow money by selling securities such as bonds. Governments also spend money by purchasing goods and services that benefit the public, such as schools, police departments and roads.
In the United States, people elect representatives to govern their local communities, towns and cities, states and nation. These elected officials, in turn, create laws to guide the behavior of their constituents and establish policies that affect all residents. This process is called representative democracy.
Other important principles of government include: Majority rule with minority rights: Decisions are based on the opinions of the majority, but the minority’s views are not ignored. Accountability: Elected and appointed officials are held accountable for their actions. Limitation of government powers and a bill of rights: Governments must limit the power that they have while ensuring citizens’ rights.
In addition to protecting and regulating the environment, governments can promote the social welfare of their citizens by offering jobs, payments and food for those who need it. Governments also support the economy by promoting business and encouraging investment. In a market economy, government policy sets prices for goods and services, defines property rights, attempts to make markets more competitive, and redistributes income. Governments may also support a particular ideal, such as egalitarianism or environmental protection.