Government is the organization through which a nation, state or local community exercises authority and rules. It also provides goods and services that people can’t easily obtain on their own, such as security, food and water. At the national and state levels, governments allocate money to programs that help people, such as education and public transportation. Government also sets policies that influence the behavior of businesses, checking them to make sure they are playing by the rules. For example, government regulations limit how much toxic gases factories can release, the purity of food products and the safety of toys and automobiles sold to consumers.
Governments are needed for people to live together in peace and have a stable economy. The people of a nation choose how their government will be run by voting for representatives to serve in the government. A government can be made up of one person (a monarchy), a select group of people (an aristocracy) or the whole people as a whole (democracy). In addition to setting policies, the role of government includes executing those laws and providing public goods and services.
A government’s structure is influenced by the culture of the country in which it exists. Different countries have different styles of government, including dictatorship (rule by a single person), empires (a collection of territories ruled by a central power), feudalism (hierarchical pyramid of control) and communism. Most modern nations have democratic republics, which feature a president, cabinet and Supreme Court.
The United States has a constitutional republic, in which elected representatives speak on the nation’s behalf and a document called the Constitution protects citizens’ rights. A government that respects its citizens and enables them to participate in the political process is most likely to be successful.
When the government is not working for its citizens, people can complain or call their representatives to ask them to fix problems. The government can be changed through elections, which happen every two years in the United States. The government can be improved by addressing problems with a particular agency or program, through legislation or by changing the policies of the agency or program.
The most important function of a government is to protect its citizens. Governments can do this through police and fire departments, schools and hospitals. They can also provide public goods and services that the market does not supply in enough quantity or at low enough costs. For example, the government can protect its citizens by building and maintaining an army, or it can provide safety and security through national parks and public education. In the case of the United States, its government can also provide stability and security by providing jobs for the military and a safety net for those who have no income.