Government is the way a society organizes itself to make and enforce rules, to accomplish collective goals, and provide services that the people need. Governments differ in size and complexity throughout the world, but they share certain features, including a structure of authority that is shared by the nation and its members.

A government is the institution that sets the laws of a nation or state and takes all decisions and actions for the benefit of its citizens. Its organization, missions and powers are set by the Constitution of each country or State. Governments are usually comprised of three branches: the legislative branch (the Congress, Senate and House of Representatives), the executive branch and the judicial branch. Each of these institutions has the power to change or veto acts put in place by the others. They are kept in check by the principle of separation of powers, which is designed to prevent a single branch from becoming too powerful.

One of the most important jobs of a government is to provide stability and security for its citizens. Governments do this by providing military services, as well as police and fire departments that protect people and their property. They also provide many public goods, such as schools, transportation and mail service. Governments help provide food, shelter and health care for the poor. They may even regulate the sale of drugs and tobacco.

In addition to maintaining safety and security, governments often try to achieve particular social ideals. For example, a government that is committed to egalitarianism (which calls for equal treatment for all and the destruction of socioeconomic inequalities) may raise taxes to ensure that everyone has access to quality education, housing and health care. It might also restrict the extent to which law enforcement agencies can tap people’s phones or limit what newspapers can publish.

Some people think that a government should only do what is needed to meet the general needs of its citizens, such as providing education and basic medical care. Others believe that a government should aim higher, such as promoting human rights and protecting the environment. Still others think that a government should try to solve problems such as poverty, crime and war. Regardless of what goal a government sets for itself, all nations need a means to coordinate their activities and to ensure that individuals can pursue their own interests within a framework of public safety and security. Governments are thus essential to the world community.