Government is a system through which leaders make the law of the land and ensure that all people are treated fairly by those laws. Governments exist in nations, states and communities. There are many different functions of government, including leadership, security, national defense and the provision of social services.
Governments have a lot of power, and they can make and enforce laws that can change people’s lives in very significant ways. Governments can also provide public goods that would be hard for private business to produce in large enough quantities at low enough costs. Examples of public goods include education and healthcare. Governments can protect people from external threats, such as war and terrorist attacks, by maintaining armed forces and collecting intelligence about potential enemies.
Many countries around the world have systems of government that work very well. Some of these systems are based on democracy, in which the people choose their own leaders by voting in an election. This type of government has a strong appeal for some people because it is believed to provide the best opportunity for a fair society.
Other governments have a stronger commitment to a particular political philosophy. These countries, often called republics, believe that people should have freedom to make their own choices, but the government has the responsibility to protect them from harm and to help with economic development and social problems. The United States is one of these republics.
In a democracy, people who have similar ideas and philosophies about the role of government come together in groups called political parties. They elect people to represent them in a local, state or federal government. The elected officials then enact laws that advance the interests of their group and those of the people they represent. People who disagree with the philosophy of a particular party may vote for other candidates or stay home in an election.
Governments spend money on a variety of things, from repairing roads to providing education to running a military. To pay for these expenses, governments collect taxes from their citizens and sell securities, such as bonds, to the public. When the amount of money a government entity collects in taxes, fees and other revenues is less than the cost of something it wants to purchase, the body has to borrow funds to cover the difference.
In the United States, the Constitution provides for separation of powers between three separate branches of government. The executive branch makes sure that the laws Congress passes are carried out. The President also represents the nation when he talks with leaders of other countries. The legislative branch is the House of Representatives and the Senate, which must agree on bills for them to become law. If a citizen disagrees with a law that the legislature or the President has passed, she can try to persuade them to change it. If a person is unable to convince the legislature or the President to change a law, she can try to get her peers in the legislative or judicial branches to override the veto and pass the bill into law.