Government is a system of rules, laws, and policies that provide leadership, maintain order, protect people from outside forces such as terrorists and natural disasters, and supply services to citizens like education, health care, and national security. Governments also make decisions about the rights and responsibilities of citizens and provide benefits such as welfare, social security, and tax deductions.
Governments have power to do these things because they control the resources of an entire country and can compel citizens to obey its laws. This means that businesses cannot always provide these goods in large enough quantities or at low enough prices to meet the needs of all of its customers. Governments can also provide certain goods and services for free or at a reduced cost, which are called public goods. Examples of public goods include national defense, education, and public parks.
The people in a country choose their leaders and the structure of their government through elections. The United States is a representative democracy, which means that some of us are elected to represent everyone else in the nation’s lawmaking body, known as Congress. The number of representatives each state has is based on its population, and the terms of those elected vary from one to 10 years.
Another important feature of representative democracies is that the Constitution provides protections for citizens, including freedom of speech and the press. These freedoms enable the citizenry to participate in political debate and to voice its opinions and wishes to those who govern.
In most countries, the leaders of the government have a group of advisors and ministers who put policy into practice. This group is called the administration. The leader of the administration is usually the head of state or prime minister. The leader of the administration appoints other members of the cabinet. The ministers are responsible for different areas of government, such as foreign affairs or agriculture.
Generally, there are three major types of governments: democracies, totalitarian regimes, and authoritarian regimes. There are also a number of hybrid systems that combine elements of the three major types.
The founders of the United States created a system of checks and balances in their federal government by splitting power into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. They knew from their own experience and from history that giving any branch of the government too much power often led to trouble. So they made sure that each of the three branches had some powers that were exclusive to the other two.
For example, the President has a role in selecting Supreme Court justices and federal judges, but only Congress can raise money for these positions. The Senate has a special role in confirming presidential nominees for these positions by giving its advice and consent. Congress also has the exclusive power to pass or reject bills for raising funds. The President has the authority to veto legislation that Congress passes, but the President must rely on the help of other lawmakers to get the veto overturned.