The Basics of Government


Government is the people, laws, and officials that determine the rules that govern a country. It’s a system that regulates what happens in public life while allowing people some level of freedom in private life, such as the right to own property and conduct business. Governments also protect citizens from outside interference and provide many other benefits, such as health care and education.

Government of some sort has been around for as long as humans have been around. Early on, it was necessary for human societies to establish a hierarchy because the power of some members of a group (later, a nation) was greater than that of others. This recognition of the need for a pecking order led to the establishment of the first governments, and it remains central to the way that most societies are structured today.

Different forms of government are established as people discover the most effective ways to organize their societies. These forms are often classified according to who has the authority to rule: one person (an autocracy), a select group of people (an aristocracy), or the whole population (a democracy).

In addition, many modern governments perform important functions that were not necessarily present in earlier societies. For example, most of the world’s population now lives in countries that offer national health insurance and other social programs to their citizens. These programs help to eliminate some of the most serious problems facing humanity, such as hunger and poverty. But these programs are not without controversy. Some people argue that government should not be in the business of providing welfare and other social services, while others believe that these programs are needed to help people get by and ensure their basic human rights.

Another important function that the government performs is protecting “common goods,” or things that all people can use but that are in limited supply, such as fish in the sea and clean drinking water. These goods must be protected so that some people do not take everything that is available and leave others with nothing. This is a crucial role for government that helps to keep society stable and functioning.

The structure of the government must be designed to keep politicians in check, or to prevent them from becoming too powerful and unchecked. This is why most modern governments are structured with three or more independent branches of power, each with the ability to limit the powers of the other branches. In the United States, for example, the executive branch can veto acts created by Congress, and the legislative branch has the power to approve or reject the President’s nominees for judicial positions and remove the Supreme Court justices from office in cases of impeachment.

A final function of government is to promote the general welfare and happiness of its citizens. This may be achieved through such means as national defense and law enforcement, social programs, and a wide range of other tasks. Whether it is through a universal health care program or food stamps, six in seven households receive some form of government assistance.