Government (from the Latin gubernare, meaning to steer or manage) describes the body or entity invested with power to run a political unit, organization or State. The forms of government vary widely, and the terms monarchy, oligarchy, democracy (direct or representative), autocracy, communism, fascism, and fascist dictatorship are used to describe different types of polities. Governments have a variety of functions, including providing security and public goods to citizens. They also provide the means for citizens to participate in governing themselves by way of voting and other political processes.

Governments have the task of protecting the resources that all people may use but that are limited in quantity, such as fish in the sea and clean drinking water. They also protect the goods that must be paid for, such as health care and education. Governments also perform the important task of transferring wealth from those who are rich to those who are poor. Economists have recently criticized this form of government spending, which is sometimes called “rent-seeking.”

When a government exists, it makes laws to regulate certain activities. It collects money through taxes to fund these laws, and drafts budgets to determine how the funds collected will be spent. Governments may be ruled by an elected legislature or an unelected executive branch. They can be multiparty or single-party. The distribution of powers among branches of government, or the separation of powers, is an important issue in determining how well a government works.

Whether a government is effective at its job depends on how it organizes itself and how the people in a country participate in governing themselves. In a democratic country, citizens decide how their governments are organized by electing members to city councils, state legislatures and Congress. These representatives then make the laws that govern their jurisdictions.

These institutions of government may be organized into a bureaucracy or a hierarchy. The bureaucracy consists of the specific government units created by law to accomplish a particular set of goals and objectives. The hierarchy consists of the highest level officials within the bureaucracy, and the lower levels are subordinate to them.

Many government institutions have to work closely with businesses to provide the public with goods and services. In order to do so, the institutions must be friendly with business while enforcing consumer-protection and worker-safety laws. In this context, the concept of a “regulatory environment” has been developed to explain how the regulatory climate affects businesses. The environment is shaped by factors such as government policies, industry regulations, and laws. These factors can either help or hinder the business.