What Is Government?
Government is the organization through which people exercise their rights, powers and responsibilities. It may be found on a national level, as in the United States, or it may be on a local level, such as a school board or town council. Government is also the way people try to protect their property, rights and lives.
Governments have been around for thousands of years. No two governments are exactly alike, though, and each reflects its country’s environment, history and political ideals. Often, what is most important about a government is not its form but the fact that it protects citizens and provides them with goods and services that cannot be provided through market forces alone.
Because it is difficult for private businesses to provide everything that all citizens need, including health care, education and the protection of the environment, some things must be provided by government. These are called public goods. Examples include mail service, fire protection and the management of wildlife. Because the market does not always produce these goods in enough quantity and at low enough cost, people must pay taxes to fund these services. This money is then used by the government to operate, maintain and improve the goods or services.
The term “government” is most often associated with a democratic system of government, in which people elect representatives to make decisions for them. In this type of government, there is a balance between the rights and responsibilities of different groups in society. However, in other countries, government is more authoritarian and power is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people. Some governments combine features of both types.
In his Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of a government of the people, by the people and for the people. This sentiment has become so widely accepted in modern democracies that it is sometimes forgotten that it was an entirely new idea only a few centuries ago.
While a government may have many functions, there are three basic parts of any government: the legislative branch, executive branch and judicial branch. Each of these branches must work together for the government to function well. Our founders realized that if any one of these branches became too powerful, problems could arise. That’s why they structured the U.S. government like a ladder, with the federal level (the top rung) framed by the Constitution and the state and local levels being the next two rungs.
One of the benefits of working in the federal government is that it offers a sense of job security that is unmatched in the business world. In contrast to private industry, which sheds jobs during economic crashes, the federal government adds employees even in hard times. It is also very easy for a federal employee to transfer from one position to another without losing their job. This can be a huge benefit during difficult times. This stability is attractive to many workers.