Governments are institutions that create and enforce rules of a society, state or other political unit. They also manage the economy, provide public services and protect citizens’ rights. Governments are usually organised into distinct institutions with a clear distribution of powers and functions called the separation of powers. These include executive, legislative and judicial branches. Governments vary in size and complexity. They can be democratic, republican, monarchy, oligarchy, or autocracy.

Government responsibilities may be at the national, state or local level and involve areas such as security, law and order, health care, education, social welfare and environmental protection. These may also include regulating the economy, encouraging entrepreneurship and addressing deficits. Governments are also sometimes responsible for protecting “public goods” that are of benefit to everyone but have a limited supply, such as clean air and water or the fish in the sea. Governments also provide services that private businesses and individuals can’t or choose not to do, such as military defense, fire and police departments, roads, education, food, and housing.

One of the most important duties of government is providing money to pay for the essential services that it provides. This is accomplished through taxation and tariffs, but government entities also borrow money. One way this is done is by selling bonds to the public, which are IOUs (bills) that the buyer gives to a government entity in exchange for a promise of repayment at a later date.

Historically, governments evolved out of a need to create rules to prevent people from fighting over property and privileges. There are many different theories on why this happened, but perhaps it was because people naturally tend to be selfish and greedy and want more than their share of the resources around them. Governments began to develop in response to this need, although they may have had a variety of other reasons for their existence as well.

A government’s power comes from the consent of its citizens or inhabitants and this is reflected in the system of elections that are held to determine who runs for office. These systems can be direct, indirect or proportional, but in all cases the process is designed to ensure that a broad range of citizens have representation in the government.

The United States, like most countries, has a bicameral legislature that consists of two chambers – a smaller upper house and a larger lower house – where bills are made, laws are passed and other governing responsibilities are fulfilled. The bicameral system exists in all fifty U.S. states, with the exception of Nebraska, and its members are known as legislators or delegates.

Legislators at the state and federal levels work together to establish funding for the things they believe are most important to their constituents. For example, state governments allocate funds for their schools, social and community care, roads and maintenance of parks. Federal government agencies also receive appropriations from Congress for their programs, such as national defense and Social Security. Congress can also mandate specific spending, which is known as earmarks, or direct funding to particular projects.