What Is Government?
Government, at the broadest level, is a system of law that sets the general rules by which an organization functions. Normally, governments also have a constitution that defines the modality of their designation and missions. Government, as a concept, may also refer to the specific organizations that make up national and international polities.
At the most basic level, government protects citizens from violence and from some of the worst vicissitudes of life such as natural disasters, hunger, and disease. Government also provides a variety of goods and services that individuals cannot produce for themselves, such as police protection and education. In addition, government regulates access to common goods such as natural resources, which must be protected from overuse because they are in limited supply.
It is important that the people of a country have reliable institutions that enforce contracts and citizens’ rights in a way that is predictable, clear and honest. These include judicial and legislative bodies and administrative agencies. Without them, a society cannot progress. Governments are responsible for preserving themselves against external threats by maintaining armed forces, conducting intelligence activities and trying to prevent the entry of aliens who may be spies or terrorists. They are also responsible for protecting the nation’s borders and enforcing treaties and embargoes against countries that might aid an enemy.
Governments are also responsible for providing services such as public education, police and fire departments, roads and infrastructure, mail service, and food, housing and health care. This is an essential function, since it ensures that citizens have a safe place to live and the opportunity to develop their potential and talents.
Usually, government collects money to pay for these services by charging taxes on income, property and sales. It also drafts budgets that specify how the funds collected will be spent on particular services. At the local, state and national levels, people elect representatives to city councils, state legislatures and Congress who pass laws to govern their areas.
In addition, people can try to influence the policies and laws that their governments make by voting for or against candidates for office. They can also work to change laws that they oppose through a process called petitioning. For example, if a citizen thinks that a bill passed by Congress is unwise, they can try to persuade the president or other elected officials to veto it.
Americans have a wide range of views about the appropriate role of government. Overall, majorities say that the government does a good job of keeping citizens safe from terrorism and natural disasters, making sure food and medicine are available, strengthening the economy and maintaining infrastructure. However, the public gives mixed ratings for how well the government manages the immigration system, helps people get out of poverty and handles threats to public health.