Government is the means by which adults organize themselves to accomplish collective goals and provide benefits that are too large for individuals or groups of people to achieve. Governments seek to accomplish many important tasks, including economic prosperity for their nation, secure borders, and the safety and well-being of their citizens. Governments at the local, state and national level make laws that affect all citizens, raise money through taxes and fees, and decide how to spend it on things like schools, police and fire departments, and roads and bridges.
Governments also regulate access to common goods such as wildlife and natural resources. Unlike public goods, which all people may use without charge, common goods are in limited supply. If too many people take freely from the supply of fish in the sea or clean drinking water, there won’t be enough for others to have. Governments protect these resources and manage them to make sure that there are enough for everyone to use.
Another very important job of government is to make sure that all citizens have the same opportunities and that they are treated fairly. To do this, governments create laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, or religion. They also ensure that all citizens have the same opportunities to succeed in the workforce and have the same access to education and healthcare.
A final important function of government is to protect the individual rights and liberties of its citizens. Governments do this by enforcing civil rights, guaranteeing equal justice in the courts, and protecting private property. Governments can also protect their citizens by providing a safety net to help those who need it. For example, when a person loses their job or health insurance, the government can step in to provide assistance.
All of these functions of government are accomplished through the work of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Each branch has different responsibilities, and the branches must work together to make sure that the government functions well.
To keep each branch from abusing its power, the government has created a system of checks and balances. For example, the president can veto legislation created by Congress. If Congress wants to override a presidential veto, it must get a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress. The Supreme Court and other federal courts (judicial branch) can declare laws unconstitutional. And the armed forces, the FBI, and other federal agencies (executive branch) can protect citizens.