What Is Government?
Government is the means by which people control their environment through laws, policies and programs. Governments around the world strive to accomplish many goals, such as establishing economic prosperity, maintaining stable national borders and protecting citizens’ safety and well-being.
Governments are typically divided into distinct institutions, each with specific powers, duties and responsibilities. The distribution of these powers, the number of these institutions and the way in which they interact with one another differs between governments. Governments may also have a variety of organizational structures. A common modern classification is based on the authority to make decisions, whether it is held by one person (autocracy), select groups of people (aristocracy) or the entire population as a whole (democracy). Governments may have a single political philosophy or a variety of philosophical viewpoints.
A common belief is that the best form of government is a democracy. This is because a democracy allows for the most diversity of opinions and can be more effective at problem-solving. However, many government systems are not democracies and are classified by other principles. For example, republics provide the structure of a democratic government with other features, such as limited government and checks and balances.
In addition to regulating the people’s interactions with the natural world, government imposes rules on private property and commerce. It provides taxation to raise money for services and maintain infrastructure such as roads, schools, police and fire departments and parks. Governments draft budgets to determine how the revenue will be spent.
Another responsibility of government is to create a social structure to improve the lives of its citizens. This can include welfare programs that give the people jobs, food, cash and other benefits to help them get by. Historically, the United States has been a leader in this area of responsibility, including providing universal health care and assisting the poor with job training. This tradition continues today.
Other governmental functions involve communication with other countries. This is often accomplished through diplomats, who represent the country and solve problems between countries, such as avoiding war or making commercial agreements. Governments also send military forces to protect their citizens against foreign invaders.
In the United States, Congress has a Constitution that describes how it will organize itself and its members. It assigns the President authority to veto specific legislative acts, but the Constitution allows the Congress to override a presidential veto by two-thirds majorities of each house of Congress. The Constitution also establishes that the Senate advises and consents on all executive and judicial appointments, and the ratification of treaties. The United States Constitution further stipulates that Congress and the President share responsibility for making war. The President signs all laws passed by Congress, but he has a veto power over those bills that the President thinks are unwise or inconsistent with his wishes. The President also appoints members to serve in the United States Supreme Court and federal courts. The President appoints federal judges and district judges.