The Definition of Government


Government is the organization of a society to accomplish goals and provide benefits that individuals and groups cannot effectively produce or secure themselves. Governments exist at the local, state, and national levels. Governments around the world have different structures but they all share some common roles: security, economic stability, and the provision of public goods and services.

Security is a central role of most governments, which must maintain strict security at the nation’s borders and also enforce laws in the interior of the country. Governments must also protect human rights and the environment.

Many people rely on government for protection, education, health care, and roads. At the local level, people elect representatives to city councils, county boards, and school boards, which make decisions about their communities. At the state and national level, citizens vote for senators and congressmen who create laws to govern their states and countries. Local and state government agencies then use funds allocated by the voters to provide goods and services. Governments raise money through taxes, fees, and borrowing.

At the national level, federal agencies set priorities for military defense, social programs like Social Security and Medicare, and the maintenance of national parks. States allocate funding for things like school systems, police and fire departments, state colleges, and roads. Governments at all levels set spending goals and draft budgets to determine how much to spend on their priorities.

Governments must also manage the production of private and public goods. They must prevent monopolies and other forms of market failure. They must also regulate the economy to encourage competition and to address problems that affect third parties, such as pollution. They must also protect private property, so that someone else cannot steal your house or your invention.

A government’s responsibilities often vary by context and political ideology. For example, the need for a strong military might lead to larger defense expenditures than would otherwise be necessary in a free-market economy. Likewise, the need to promote education might lead to funding for universities, whereas the need to ensure the welfare of the poor might lead to government-sponsored housing, food, and medical care.

While there are many definitions of government, some of the most important include the ability to take actions that benefit all members of a society and that prevent harm from other societies or natural resources. Governments must also be able to manage their finances, maintain security, and defend the sovereignty of the nation. They must also be willing to adapt their functions as circumstances change. They must remain flexible enough to respond to challenges posed by new technologies, globalization, and the increasing power of economic giants. Finally, governments must be able to negotiate and cooperate with other countries and nations. The result is a wide variety of government types, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.