What Is Government?
Government is the way a society organizes to accomplish collective goals and provide benefits for all members of a community. Governments exist at the local, state and national level to manage infrastructure like roads and water systems, provide services such as police and fire departments, and ensure security and safety. While the specifics of what a government does vary depending on the country and type of government, all governments have certain core functions.
At its most basic, a government is a structure through which leaders exercise power to make and enforce laws. Governments can also provide leadership, maintain order, and help with economic security and national assistance. Governments are typically made up of three different branches that work together to set laws, execute them, and evaluate them for fairness and consistency.
The first branch of a government is the legislative branch, which makes laws. Congress, the Senate, and the House of Representatives are all part of the legislative branch. The President, Vice President, and Cabinet are all part of the executive branch, which carries out laws that have been passed by the legislative branch. And the Supreme Court and other federal courts are part of the judicial branch, which ensures that laws are being applied consistently and fairly.
This system of checks and balances is designed to prevent one branch from abusing its power over the others. As James Madison wrote in The Federalist No. 51, “It is impossible to make all politicians angels; the best we can do is create a structure of government that tends to counter ambition by making it competitive with other branches of the government.”
To finance their functions, governments must collect money. This is done through taxes on income, property, and sales, among other things. Local, state, and national governments draft budgets to determine how the money they collect will be spent for the benefit of the public. This includes things such as education, police and fire departments, road maintenance, parks, and mail service.
In addition to providing basic services, a government must also keep the economy healthy. This includes preventing inflation and stimulating foreign investment. It also involves managing the country’s debt.
In the United States, the constitutional system of government consists of three equal and independent branches: the legislative, executive, and judicial. The Constitution lays out the roles and responsibilities of each of these branches, which are intended to be collaboratively checked by each other in order to prevent any one branch from abusing its power. This balanced system of government is referred to as the American form of democracy. This system is similar to other democratic forms of government around the world. The Founders created this system in the hopes that it would protect their new country from becoming an autocracy, which they believed was a dangerous form of government. The Founders also recognized that people need to give up some freedoms in order for the government to function properly. For example, it is illegal to walk into someone’s home without permission and claim that the house belongs to you.