What Is Government?
Government is the means by which a society organizes itself and allocates authority to accomplish collective goals, such as economic prosperity and secure borders. Governments also provide benefits for citizens, such as education and health care. Almost every place on Earth has a government, with the exception of some small, border-disputed regions and Antarctica, where people follow traditional beliefs instead of governmental rules. Governments may vary in size and structure, but all have the same purpose: to make rules to promote social stability and ensure the welfare of citizens.
Governments have many different jobs, from regulating the environment to building schools and fire stations. They also have the power to tax and compel citizens to comply with laws. The most important function of any government, however, is to protect its citizens. Governments are the only entities capable of combining the resources, expertise and force necessary to protect a nation from external threats and internal strife.
Those who work in the public sector of government are employed by state, local and federal governments. Each of these entities operates under the same principles, although they differ in how they allocate funds and what services they provide to citizens. Governments typically consist of a hierarchy of institutions that form independent branches with distinct powers, functions and responsibilities. These are often referred to as checks and balances. The more checks and balances, the less likely one branch of the government will abuse its power.
The earliest types of governments were monarchies, where a single person, usually a monarch or king, controlled all aspects of a nation’s life. Some of these early rulers gained their power through military conquest, while others inherited their privileges from their fathers or mothers. Monarchs continue to rule in some countries today, including the United Kingdom, France and Saudi Arabia.
Today, most nations have a democratic system in which the people vote for representatives who will create and enforce laws to benefit their lives. These laws range from traffic regulations to national security measures, and they determine how much tax citizens must pay, what rights they have and what punishments they might face if they break the law.
Most governments support certain ideals, such as equality or the elimination of socioeconomic inequalities. The type of ideal a nation supports influences the types of laws it passes, what restrictions are placed on speech and other freedoms and the overall character of its government.
Some of the most important reasons governments exist are to regulate access to some common goods like natural resources or to prevent individuals from monopolizing resources that have limited supply. It is difficult for private businesses to provide these types of goods, which is why governments exist.