Government has a wide range of responsibilities and powers. It provides national security and services like education, health care, and recreational activities that cannot be supplied by private business.
Governments exist in every nation and are governed by a constitution, or set of rules that ensure effective governance. These rules vary, but they all include some fundamental principles that govern how a government operates.
Democracy is a form of government in which citizens exercise their power through voting and deliberation, usually directly through a governing body, such as a legislature or jury. Indirect democracy is a less common method, in which citizens elect representatives or delegates to represent them.
In democratic systems, citizens are protected from discrimination and oppression. They also have the right to speak their opinions without fear of retaliation.
The government also facilitates wealth-producing voluntary exchange by enforcing property rights and providing social safety nets that protect ordinary people from poverty or abuse. These policies often provide more benefits than costs to society.
However, these policies can be expensive. Costs can arise due to incentives facing voters, government officials, and government employees; due to actions by special interest groups that can impose costs on the general public; or because social goals other than economic efficiency are being pursued.
As a result, governments often have to make policies that disperse costs widely over large groups of people and benefit relatively small, politically powerful groups of people. This is known as the “social welfare” hypothesis.
A government is responsible for ensuring the well-being of its people by protecting their security, building civic amenities and infrastructure, forming effective policies, and regulating and managing the economy.
To accomplish this, governments have a number of levels and a system of checks and balances that protect their citizens from the actions of government officials.
There are three major levels of government: federal, state, and local.
The federal government consists of executive figures (the President, vice president, and major departments in the executive cabinet); Congress (the Senate and House of Representatives); and the federal court system.
As the head of the government, the president can veto legislation and nominate heads of federal agencies. The Senate in the legislative branch confirms the president’s nominations, and Congress can impeach the president for violations of the Constitution or a federal law.
Congress, by contrast, enacts laws and policies; determines funding for government programs; regulates trade, including by levying taxes; and declares war.
A government also has a responsibility to protect its citizens from crime and violence, by developing an efficient police force, establishing a fair justice system, and maintaining an effective defense force.
Many countries are also involved in foreign policy, such as signing treaties and negotiating with other nations.
Most governments are based on a democratic model of governance, in which citizens elect representatives to represent them. These representatives are part of a political party, which has a set of shared ideas and philosophies about what should be done to meet the needs of its constituents.