The Basics of Government

The term government refers to a group of people that have the power to rule a particular territory—whether a nation, a state or province within a country, or even a neighborhood. Governments create rules and impose punishments when those rules are broken, collect taxes and money to pay for their activities, regulate commerce, and use the force of law to make sure people follow the rules. Governments also provide services such as education, public transportation, food, housing, and health care to their citizens.

Historically, philosophers have classified types of government into categories such as the government of one (an autocracy, like a monarchy), the government of a select group of people (an oligarchy or aristocracy), and the government of the whole population (a democracy). Modern classification systems recognize a range of hybrid regimes as well.

Governments must create a wide variety of laws, rules and regulations to manage the complexity of their operations and the needs of their citizens. These policies can be highly complex and often change frequently. The business community, for example, often opposes laws or regulations that they think impede their ability to create and sell goods and services. They also complain about the amount of tax and other levies they have to pay.

Some governments also operate as friends of business by creating consumer-protection and worker-safety laws that help businesses compete effectively. At the same time, businesses may lobby to have those laws changed in their favor.

In a democracy, government operates through the process of election by citizens to political offices. The organization of government differs from place to place, but generally, a single political party controls the government and is responsible for its policy making. Government agencies are responsible for putting the policy into practice, and they are staffed by people who work for the government.

The US government is divided into departments that are headed by a cabinet of senior officials. The president is the head of the executive branch of government and is responsible for overseeing the government. The legislative branch of the US government is the congressional branch and is tasked with passing bills that become laws. The judicial branch of the US government is charged with reviewing and interpreting laws passed by the other branches of the federal government. In addition, there are a number of independent regulatory and oversight bodies. These include the Federal Reserve Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. All of these bodies are designed to prevent financial crises in the economy. Other bodies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, are responsible for regulating certain products, such as drugs and cosmetics. Other government departments are involved in promoting economic growth and development. The government may also fund research and development programs, such as the development of new medicines. In this area, the US has led the world in many areas. Its technology has helped to develop a number of important medical treatments and has also contributed to the overall quality of life.