Government is the way a group organizes itself to accomplish collective goals and provide services that individuals cannot easily or effectively provide for themselves. Governments have a wide range of powers, from regulating the economy to ensuring safety and security for citizens.
Governments must make laws that reflect the values and interests of their people. They must also decide how to allocate the wealth they collect from citizens through taxes to meet their needs and achieve their goals. These include military defense, social welfare programs, education and infrastructure for transportation. Governments are usually funded through tax revenue and the fees they charge for certain services. When the income from these sources is not enough to cover their expenditures, they must borrow money.
When governments step over the line between their protective or negative role and their aggressive, redistributive role of redistributing the wealth through taxation and giving “benefits” to some citizens while taking away the freedoms of other citizens, they have crossed into the arena of legalized plunder. It is here that unscrupulous individuals and pressure groups compete with each other to manipulate the levers of power to fatten their own wallets or to benefit their favorite charities.
The main function of government is to protect its citizens from bodily harm, theft and involuntary servitude. To do that, it must have just and enforceable laws. Consequently, it cannot claim the right to reclaim or redistribute the wealth of its citizens, and it certainly must not attempt to force reluctant citizens to give money to their charity of choice against their will.
Modern political scientists distinguish between several different types of governments. These include democracies, totalitarian regimes and, sitting somewhere in between, authoritarian systems with a variety of hybrid regimes.
These classifications are based on how power is obtained, the degree to which citizens’ interests are protected and the extent of popular participation in decision-making. These factors are often difficult to measure and may change over time and in varying degrees from one country to another.
In the United States, we have a representative democracy. A few of each state’s citizens are elected to Congress and the Senate, where they make laws for all of America. The President and the Cabinet, who carry out and enforce laws, form the Executive Branch of the federal government. The Supreme Court judges oversee the constitutionality of laws.
The United States also has three levels of local government — municipal, county and township. The responsibilities of each level of government differ, but they all share the responsibility of protecting individual rights and providing the people with services that they cannot easily or effectively provide for themselves. The local government level provides police and fire departments, roads, education, and some social services. The local government level is financed by taxes and fees charged for services, as well as by borrowing money. This government level also has a small number of courts, including municipal, district and circuit.