Government is the system of people, laws and officials that define and control a country. They regulate what happens in public life, but many of the rules they establish and enforce can affect private lives as well. Governments have many responsibilities, from national security to regulating the economy and distributing wealth. They are often responsible for providing services like healthcare, social care and infrastructure. They also provide tax incentives to encourage certain types of economic behaviour and protect the environment. Governments can be found at the global, national and local level.

The concept of government evolved as people discovered that it was easier to defend their communities if they stayed together. They also realized that it was harder for one person to take advantage of another in a group. This led to the recognition of collective power and the principle of sovereignty, which is the right of a sovereign nation to be free from outside interference.

Modern governments enact and enforce laws, maintain law and order systems, collect taxes and print money. They also have a monopoly on the legal use of force and can punish people for breaking the laws. They manage the armed forces that protect their countries, as well as police forces that ensure citizens’ safety. Governments are also involved in a variety of international relations and diplomacy efforts.

They can be financed in different ways, but most governments raise funds from taxpayers by charging them taxes. They spend this money on activities that they believe will benefit the majority of their citizens. This can include funding state colleges and universities, maintaining highways, running the military and managing wildlife. Governments can also make investments, such as buying bonds, which is a way of borrowing money and earning interest at a rate set by the government.

Some governments, such as the United States and Britain, allow their citizens to vote in elections. They can also speak out on issues they believe should be addressed by their governments and complain if they feel they have been treated unfairly. Governments can also promote the economy by promoting certain industries and providing loans and grants to businesses.

There are a number of factors that influence how a government behaves and operates, including the cultural, political and economic context in which it exists. Various factors can lead to a change in government policy, from a new president taking office to natural disasters and wars that impact a country. National demographics, such as the age and size of a population, can have a direct impact on what kinds of services a government provides. Also, lobbyists, such as the British Medical Association’s campaign for a smoking ban in pubs, can put pressure on politicians and influence decisions and outcomes. In addition, laws and constitutions can dictate the limits on the rights and powers of a government.