Government is a group of people with the authority to make rules and enforce them. It also has the power to provide many goods and services that citizens need but cannot easily produce for themselves, such as law enforcement, education, health care, water treatment, transportation and national defense.
Governments exist at all levels of human society, from local communities to the United States. Each form of Government is unique, but they share common elements. Governments have a responsibility to encourage life-affirming patterns of behavior and to prohibit or punish damaging ones. They must protect the rights of citizens, establish fair and equitable laws, and secure a country’s borders. They must prioritize the environment, including preserving nature and its resources for future generations.
In a democratic system, citizens elect a few people out of everyone to make laws for the whole community. These elected people are called representatives. In the United States, these are our senators and members of the House of Representatives. The members of Congress represent the people of our 50 states, and the number of members per state is based on its population. When the people elect a President, he or she takes on bigger problems and guides the nation as a whole. There are also a few people who work for the Executive Branch, who ensure that our government functions well by making sure that the laws Congress makes and the way they’re enforced agree with the Constitution. There is a Judicial Branch who makes sure that our legal system is fair and equal to all.
There are forces that generate clashes between countries, such as economic rivalry and disputes over trade, the desire to dominate strategic land or sea areas, religious or ideological conflict, or imperialistic ambition. All national governments develop organizations and policies to meet these challenges. They have foreign ministries for conducting diplomatic relations with other countries, and they represent their interests in international organizations and when negotiating treaties. Some governments even conduct programs such as foreign aid and cultural exchanges to win goodwill abroad.
All of these activities require money, so like any business or household, Governments spend more than they make. This deficit requires them to borrow funds, and they do this by selling bonds to the public. When a bond is sold, the buyer gives the Government an IOU (Individual Obligation Unsecured) to receive cash in the future for the amount of the loan plus interest. The government borrows money to cover its spending and to pay for things that its constituents need but cannot produce themselves. Governments have a broad range of responsibilities and functions, but they all share the principle that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is why our American institutions of Government place such a high value on checks and balances between different parts of the government. This principle is also reflected in the name of our Government: The United States Government.