Government is the system of people, laws and officials that defines and controls the country you live in. Most countries have a president, prime minister, parliament, courts and other governing bodies. Governments make and enforce rules that protect citizens. They also provide services such as education, health care and defense. Governments are often criticized for being wasteful, but they are essential to our lives.

It is hard to know how governments first developed, but they almost certainly grew out of the need for protection and to create law and order. Governments evolved as groups recognized that some members of the group deserved more power than others. This recognition is the basis of sovereignty, or the right of a nation to be free from outside interference.

The word government comes from the Latin, meaning “to rule.” There are many different types of governments. Some have monarchs, while others are republics. Still others are constitutional states or democracies. The most common form of government is a democracy, in which the people choose their leaders by voting. In the United States, all states have a two-chamber legislature, which makes state laws and fulfills other governing responsibilities. The smaller upper chamber is usually called the Senate, and the lower chamber is generally known as the House of Representatives.

In most democratic governments, the legislative and executive branches are equal in power. Bills must be passed by both houses of Congress to become law. The president may sign or veto bills that Congress passes. A vetoed bill can still become law, however, if two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote to override the president’s decision. The Supreme Court can overturn laws that the president or Congress pass if they are found unconstitutional.

Many of the services provided by governments are considered to be public goods, or things that everyone should be able to use without charge, such as fish in the sea and clean drinking water. These goods must be protected by government so that a few people do not take everything and leave others with nothing. Governments also protect private goods that must be defended by government, such as national security and education.

Because it is impossible to ensure that politicians are angels who will never try to grab more power than they should, the best way to keep them in check is to separate their powers into different departments or branches. This system is called the system of checks and balances. Each branch is designed to control the other branches so that one cannot become too powerful. The president, for example, can veto laws that Congress passes and choose which judges to appoint, but Congress can remove the president from office if it determines that he or she has done something illegal. This is the basic structure of most modern governments. Each branch has its own responsibilities, but they all work together to make the world a safer and more prosperous place.