The Basics of Government
Government is the system by which people govern an organized community. Governments take on a variety of forms but are generally considered to include a legislature, an executive, and a judiciary. Government also includes the institutions that enforce laws and create policy. Many countries have a constitution that provides their philosophy and structure.
The most fundamental role of governments is to provide stability for the population and a means by which people can obtain goods and services. Governments do this by making laws, raising money, and providing infrastructure like schools, police departments, hospitals, and roads. Governments raise money by imposing taxes on individuals, businesses, and property. They also draft budgets that allocate funds to different services. On the local level, this may mean funding parks, police and fire departments, or education. On the national level, this may mean funding health care or a welfare program.
In addition to maintaining order, government imposes rules on the private sector to prevent business from harming the environment, exploiting workers, or defrauding consumers. While these rules are controversial, proponents argue that they serve a vital function in allowing the free market to operate in a more civilized fashion. In fact, some businesses lobbied to have these regulations created in the first place in order to limit the free-market excesses of others.
Various government structures exist around the world, from a single person ruling alone (an autocracy) to a group of select people ruling in concert (an aristocracy). In the United States, the founding fathers chose a democratic form of government, wherein citizens elect representatives to city councils, state legislatures, and Congress who make laws to govern their respective jurisdictions. The founders believed that this would provide checks and balances against the potential abuse of power by a few powerful people.
Governments also regulate access to common goods, such as public lands and wildlife, which are not renewable or in unlimited supply. This is necessary so that some people do not take too freely from the resource and leave others with none. Governments protect these resources to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to enjoy them, just as they protect roads and water supplies by regulating their use.
Governments have a wide range of programs designed to help people through social programs, financial support, or welfare benefits. While these programs are sometimes controversial, most nations today have some form of them. However, critics have argued that they can lead to a dependency on the government and distort an individual’s responsibility for his or her own well being. Governments can also be criticized for their bureaucratic nature and the inefficiency of their operation. They are often rife with red tape that hinders economic growth and can delay needed services. In addition, some have been accused of corruption and cronyism. The United States has a large number of federal agencies that are tasked with implementing policies created by its legislative and executive branches. These departments are usually structured with a secretary, assistant secretaries, deputy secretaries, and more to achieve their mission-oriented goals.