Government is the system of people who have authority over an organized community, usually a country. Governments have many responsibilities and goals, including developing policy, enforcing laws, providing services, and protecting citizens. Governments also have a variety of tools for carrying out their policies, such as taxes and police.
Most governments are based on the idea that it is best when the majority of people in a society agree on the most important issues, such as how much to tax, what kind of healthcare to provide, and where to spend government money. Governments develop a philosophy or doctrine that explains how to achieve these goals, which is called a political system. Governments have the power to tax and use force against people to ensure they follow the law, and they must be held accountable by a judicial system.
There are many different kinds of governments, with the most common being democracies and totalitarian regimes. Some are in between these two extremes, such as monarchies or oligarchies. Governments are organized into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. Each branch has specific powers that are exclusive to it, but they do not interfere with each other’s actions, and the branches are balanced through a system of checks and balances.
The judicial branch interprets the laws made by Congress and judges, and it has the final say on whether to uphold or overturn a law. The President nominates Supreme Court justices and federal judges, and Congress must give its “advice and consent” to any such nominations before they can be confirmed by the Senate. Congress can override a presidential veto with a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the House and Senate.
Many Americans have more daily contact with state and local governments than they do with the federal government. State and local governments make rules about traffic, schools, libraries, and more. They also run police departments and hospitals, and many people get their driver’s licenses, health insurance, and social security benefits from these local agencies.
Governments may use their powers to subsidize certain industries and activities that the market cannot support in sufficient quantity or at reasonable cost. This is known as public goods, and it includes national defense and education. Governments also produce some things that the market cannot provide in enough quantity or at low enough costs, such as public utilities and parks.
In his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln quoted a saying that suggests the government of a nation is best when it is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Other philosophers have proposed similar ideas, such as the concept of “limited government” that restricts the power of government and guarantees the rights of citizens. Governments have the ability to collect taxes, draw upon resources of a whole nation, and compel citizen compliance with their laws, so they have a unique role in promoting human well-being. This is why most people believe that, in addition to providing services and protecting its citizens from external threats, the responsibilities of government must include economic development and social progress.