Government is the way that adults decide what rules and laws all people should live by. It also enforces those rules, and judges any conflicts between them. In the United States, the founding fathers designed a system with three big branches of government: the legislative, executive, and judiciary. Each branch oversees a different function of national leadership. This system of checks and balances ensures that no one branch has too much power.
Many governments around the world provide services that benefit their citizens. These services can include things like education, health care, and roads. Governments may also provide social programs that help the poor or needy, such as food stamps and welfare benefits. Some economists believe that it is the duty of governments to solve problems that cannot be solved by market forces alone. For example, when polluting industries harm people and animals, it is not possible for victims to pursue justice on their own. Governments are expected to protect the environment and the safety of citizens, so they can regulate businesses in this manner.
Almost all governments have a form of democracy, in which some people out of all the citizens are elected to make laws for everyone. In the United States, this group is called Congress. Americans refer to those who work in Congress as “lawmakers.” Britons call them MPs (Members of Parliament). In a democratic government, all members of the legislature have a voice and vote for the policies that affect them.
The United States has a federal republic, in which the powers of the Federal Government are limited to those enumerated in the Constitution. All other powers are reserved for the States and the people, and are regulated by the States’ own Constitutions and laws. People most often come into contact with their State and local governments, which control schools, libraries, police departments, and roads.
All governments have to be funded, so they must collect taxes from their citizens. These taxes pay for the services and protections that the government provides, as well as other essential functions like maintaining the nation’s defense. Many countries around the world use different forms of taxation to raise money. Some governments collect flat taxes, while others tax specific items or activities. Taxes can be controversial, because some people view them as a rip-off or unfair. Governments can also be criticized for spending too much money, or not enough, on certain services or programs. However, most people agree that it is important for governments to provide security and stability for their citizens. They also agree that the government should protect citizens’ freedoms, such as free speech and a free press. These values are central to most western democracies, such as the United States, France, and Britain. These democracies also allow their citizens to vote for their leaders. Voting takes place every two years in the United States. In some other countries, elections are held more frequently. Regardless of how they are conducted, all elections must be fair and free.