A government is a group or system of individuals governing a society, usually a nation. In most nations, the head of state is elected for a limited period of time and remains in office until their terms are up for renewal at general elections. The members of a government include members of the House and Senate, the President and the Vice President, cabinet members, and other officers responsible for the policies and actions of the government. The government generally runs most of the day-to-day operations.

In contrast, with no government there are many individuals and institutions with defined roles and responsibilities. In some cases, these may be similar to those in a government, with some having considerably more power. For instance, schools and hospitals would not be able to function without parents, teachers, doctors, and nurses. Without banks, many people would not be able to obtain loans to buy homes, to go to college, or to start businesses.

In contrast, with no government may also come a lack of political parties. Although there are many countries with established political parties, there is often less competition between parties and more agreement on basic goals. With governments without political parties, there may also be greater corruption due to the inability to investigate and hold public offices accountable. There is a lack of trust that arises because people are not sure of the intentions or goals of government.

A fourth difference is between federal government and state government. In the United States, the three branches of government are the U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives. State governments are generally independent but frequently collaborate with the national government and many have combined local government and municipal governments.

A fifth difference is between executive and legislative branches. In the United States, the three branches are the U.S. executive branch, U.S. Congress, and U.S. courts. Each of these branches has an official government created from laws passed by the legislative bodies. The executive branch reports to the president and is empowered to hire and fire federal employees, issue regulations, and perform other executive branch functions. Congress passes many laws regulating the executive branch. Because of the three-branch system, Congress ensures that laws are consistent from executive branch to executive branch.

A final difference between the judicial branch and the executive branch is that the Supreme Court is created by the United States Congress, not by the executive branch. The U.S. Supreme Court only affects cases that reach the federal bench, but lower court decisions cannot impact future cases. As such, the Supreme Court is the last line of defense between an abused citizen and abusive government.