Governments are responsible for creating and enforcing the rules of a society, as well as handling defense, foreign affairs, the economy, and public services. They are also responsible for raising money to pay for these things, primarily through taxes. Different types of governments differ in how they accomplish their responsibilities. These differences are based on things like the size of the population, historical circumstance, cultural influences, intellectual and philosophical ideas, geography, and political ideals.

While there is no definitive answer to the question of why governments exist, they are necessary for the existence of civilized societies. Governments first evolved as people discovered that it was easier to protect themselves from each other if they recognized one person or group as the exclusive owners of a territory and the right to govern it, free of outside interference.

People today choose representatives to make laws on their behalf in cities, states, and countries. This is called a representative democracy. The United States has the federal government, state governments, and local governments that are each formed to meet specific needs of a community. Each type of government has its own rules about how it functions, and its own structure for making policy.

One of the most important reasons for the existence of a government is to provide goods or services that cannot be provided by the market. These are called public goods, and they include things like education, law enforcement, and national security. A private business would not be able to provide these things at large enough scale or low enough cost to satisfy the needs of all citizens. Governments have the ability to raise funds from a large group of people, to create plans and strategies for defense, to compel citizens to contribute their labor and property to the war effort, and to gather information about an enemy that might be needed to plan attacks and protect against attack.

Governments are organized into three main branches. The Executive Branch enforces the laws Congress makes. The Supreme Court judges if those laws are constitutional. The Judicial Branch checks the Executive and Legislative branches. Each branch has its own rules about how it functions, including its powers and duties. The system of checks and balances is designed to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful. It also gives citizens many opportunities to influence the creation of law as it moves from idea to final implementation, and to influence the decisions that are made. If a citizen disagrees with a decision by the Congress or the President, they can work to persuade that branch to change its decision. The result is a very complex system that works fairly well.