Government is the mechanism by which people organize themselves and allocate authority to accomplish collective goals, provide benefits that the society as a whole needs and protect the nation from external threats. The goal of government is to promote economic prosperity and secure the national borders while providing citizens with services that range from free public education to police and fire protection, mail delivery and parks and open space. Governments also create a structure by which individuals can make their needs and opinions known to public officials. This is what distinguishes a democracy from an oligarchy, in which the majority of a country’s citizens are not represented in the political process.

Whether you call it a republic, monarchy, communist state or other type of regime, government is necessary to the existence of civilized society. However, the role of government is more complicated than the definition suggests. In the past, scholars have struggled to define government as a system of power or rule where certain groups dominate other groups in accordance with specific principles. However, a more important definition of government involves the way that people organize themselves to meet their own particular needs and achieve certain social goals.

The first purpose of government evolved as people realized that it was easier to protect their families, friends and property if they stayed together in a group or community. It also became clear that it was easier to keep the members of a group (later a nation) together if all agreed that the members should not be forced to share their land and other resources with people outside of the community or country. This recognition is the origin of sovereignty, which is the right of a nation to be protected by its own troops and defend itself against foreign invasion.

As governments developed, they started to become responsible for protecting citizens from invaders and regulating access to common goods like natural resources that all people may use freely but are in limited supply such as the fish in the ocean or the water in rivers and lakes. Governments also began to serve the role of ensuring that citizens had adequate food, shelter and medical care.

Regardless of the type of government, governments all around the world make laws to govern their respective jurisdictions and draft budgets that determine how money will be allocated for various services and programs. For example, local and state governments use funds to build and maintain schools, police and fire departments, parks and other essential infrastructure. Governments also manage negative externalities like pollution, overfishing and global warming, which would be difficult to address without a government. Governments are also active in promoting economic growth by encouraging investment in their countries and even by acting as leading drivers for some industries. Governments also play a critical role in managing social inequality and addressing market failures.