Government is the structure by which a country or State assigns roles and responsibilities, makes laws and regulates economic activity. Its purpose is to serve citizens by creating a structure through which society as a whole can accomplish its goals and provide for the common good. Governments have a number of jobs, including ensuring national security through military and intelligence agencies, providing education and healthcare, regulating business and protecting the environment. Governments may also create social programs to provide citizens with relief from the hardships of everyday life and to encourage personal responsibility.

Governments raise money through taxes on income, property and sales. They use the funds to pay for services and projects such as public parks, police and fire departments and roads. Governments also redistribute wealth, ensuring that all citizens have access to the same basic needs like food and water. Governments protect a nation’s natural resources, define property rights and set standards for educational achievement. They may also protect cultural and historic resources, as well as subsidize industries that are deemed important to the economy.

People elect representatives to govern local, state and national levels of government. They make laws and allocate funding to various programs through taxes, grants and loans. Each branch of government has its own rules for how to make and enforce law, and it is this system of checks and balances that ensures that one branch does not become too powerful over the others. The Constitution, for example, guarantees that the executive branch will not become too powerful by giving it only limited express powers. The other branches have a series of limits on how they can make or enforce law, such as the power to veto laws that the executive branch deems unconstitutional.

At the national level, citizens elect members to Congress and the President. They then work together to make laws, fund programs and allocate budgets for federal agencies. They do this in a process called “bicameralism,” which is a balance of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. This allows Congress to check the President’s power and to prevent the Supreme Court from becoming too powerful by giving it only a few express powers.

In addition to these national agencies, governments often establish departments or divisions that are responsible for putting their policy into practice. For example, the Department of Defence covers the entire United Kingdom. But the Department for Work and Pensions does not, because some responsibilities have been devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Government ministers are accountable to Parliament for the actions, successes and failures of their departments.

The major types of modern political systems include democracies, totalitarian regimes and those that sit between these two extremes like authoritarian regimes and monarchies. There are many variations of these systems, however, and some governments combine elements of different kinds of governments. This is because most political systems originated as social or economic movements that eventually developed into political parties with their own competing ideologies.