What Is Government?
Government is the system of people who govern an organized community, such as a nation or state. It establishes the laws and enforces them. It also helps to ensure that all citizens are treated fairly by those laws. It is most often thought of in terms of what happens in public life, although the rules that a government like ours establishes can affect private life as well.
Governments come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all share one central function: to lead and protect their citizens. Most governments are democracies, meaning that the people make decisions through elected representatives. However, some are authoritarian regimes that concentrate power in the hands of a few individuals or a single political party. Other countries have hybrid systems that combine elements of democracy and authoritarianism.
Regardless of their form, all governments need money to do their work. They collect taxes from their citizens and use the funds to pay for things such as schools, police forces, roads, water treatment and national parks. At the local level, people decide how their taxes should be spent through democratic elections and referendums. People who have similar ideas and philosophies about how to run their governments come together in groups called political parties.
In general, people tend to support a big role for government. Large majorities of Democrats say the government should play a large part in all 10 areas we asked about, and half or more of Republicans agree. There are differences between age groups, with younger adults more likely than older ones to favor a big role for government.
People also have differing ideas about what types of activities should be the responsibility of their government. Some people are more concerned about social welfare, while others emphasize economic growth. Those who favor social welfare programs are more likely to believe that the government should provide help for the poor, disabled and unemployed, while those who are more concerned with economic growth would prefer to see the government reduce taxes to spur job creation and reduce spending on things such as health care and welfare benefits.
Another important issue in determining the size of a government is what it should do in relation to business. Some people believe that the government should be a friend of businesses, providing them with financial and advisory services. Other people feel that the government should be a regulator, creating and enforcing consumer-protection, worker-safety and other laws.
Governments have also become increasingly involved in the area of healthcare. In the US, a number of federal and state programs include Medicare, Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and veterans’ and Indian health care. In addition, there are a variety of other federal and state programs that provide assistance with housing, food and other necessities for those who need it. This is all in addition to the global efforts of the World Health Organization and other international organizations.