What is Government?

We have all heard of the government; probably more than we know of the word “rep.” We hear government programs and think of government employees; how much do they cost us in salaries, what are they, where do they live, what is their pay scale, who do they report to, are there any commissions, and is it the same everywhere? These are some of the questions we ask when we consider ourselves acquainted with the concept of government. The idea of the government is often misunderstood. The first inquiry into government should be; what is it? And the second, what is government anyway?

A government is a political system or group of individuals governing an organized society, usually a country. In most countries, the system is representative democracy, with an elected government that grants rights and privileges to citizens. Without government, there would be chaos as the many competing interests try to gain power, manipulate the political process, or otherwise seek to gain an advantage over the systems of governance. However, unlike our complex systems of governance where we allow individuals and institutions to form different opinions, government tends to consult the people on the matter of the regulation of the economy, and protects them from undue exploitation, corporate crime, environmental pollution, and various other socially undesirable acts. Many governments also protect their citizens from foreign aggression or danger, and from terrorist organizations.

A form of government may be monarchy, constitutional monarchies, multiparty parlementaries, and even republics. For instance, in most European nations, the government may elect or appoint the members of their legislature, and pass laws and regulations through their legislature. Latin American and Asian countries tend toward multiparty democracy, with leaders appointed by the voters through a process of election and popularly voted through parliament. In the United States, the government may elect or appoint leaders through a system of proportional representation, based on race, gender, age, or religion.

There are three main types of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. In the United States, we have two major forms of government: representative democracy, with a legislative body consisting of representatives of various groups and interest groups elected through election; and executive, which is the supreme power in the country, granted by the president through the executive power compact. In contrast, there is a form of government called oligarchy, which is ruled by a wealthy elite class through a system of crony capitalism. Both types of governments tend to privilege a small group of political leaders at the expense of the rest of the population.

For instance, although the federal government in the United States is separated into two main branches – executive branch and legislative branch – each branch has continued to favor certain groups, such as white-collar workers, farmers, small-town entrepreneurs, and large corporations. This, in turn, gives each group special economic, social, and political advantages. Thus, the U.S. government continues to support those who are economically vulnerable, politically conservative, and ethnic in nature. On the other hand, the Chinese, Hispanics, and other immigrants in the United States suffer from extreme discrimination when it comes to employment opportunities, while other countries with similar ethnic demographics enjoy a thriving economy that is largely supported by high levels of taxation.

The rise of democracy and liberalism in many countries around the world has reduced the power of absolute power. This allows smaller groups to control their government through representative government rather than through a single ruling elite. Still, it is difficult for smaller groups to gain access to and control the levers of power. Hence, in some nations like India and Pakistan, there is a persistent struggle between liberalism and conservatism. Monarchy remains a powerful force even in the most modern times.