What Is Government?

A government is the system of people or groups who govern an organized community, society, or state. Normally a government includes a legislative branch, an executive branch, and a judiciary branch.

People who live in a democracy elect representatives to their city councils, county boards, state legislatures, and Congress. These bodies make laws and draft budgets to determine how the money they collect from taxes will be spent for services like education, police and fire departments, and parks. The president can veto laws passed by Congress and the Supreme Court can overturn unconstitutional laws.

Historically, governments have made laws to control the activities of individuals and to protect property. Governments have also provided goods and services that are not available in the market. The most important of these are public goods such as wildlife, the oceans, and air. Public goods are useful for everyone but may be difficult to produce because they are non-excludable and non-rivaling. Governments provide these because they can create collective compulsion to force citizens to cooperate with each other.

In recent times, governments have become less responsible for providing basic necessities like healthcare and education. Private companies have started to take over these responsibilities. However, no matter what kind of government exists, it is important to understand what roles governments perform.

The purpose of government is to create rules to protect people from each other and to provide order. Governments, in this sense, are necessary for civilized society. They are the source of many debates and have evolved in many ways over time. One major debate centers on whether government should have power over the individual, or if each person should be free from any interference from outside entities. This recognition of power in the hands of a group (later a nation) is called sovereignty.

Another debate centers on what kinds of rules are needed and desirable. People have tried to answer this question for centuries, and the answers are varied. Some think that human nature dictates that conflicts between people will occur, and that government is needed to protect them from each other. Others think that property ownership makes people self-centered and selfish, and that there must be some form of centralized control in order to prevent this.

There are a variety of different forms of government, ranging from democracies to totalitarian regimes and sitting somewhere between them, such as republics and monarchies. Identifying a type of government is complicated by the fact that most political systems have roots in socio-economic movements, and these tend to change their shapes over time. In addition, political science encyclopedias use a long list of names ending in –cracy or –archy to describe the various types of governments and their features. A few examples include monarchy, aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and theocracy. Many of these different forms of government can be combined to make a hybrid regime. It is also important to remember that not all forms of government are created equal.