Government is the system of people and laws that define, control and oversee a country. Governments make the rules and enforce them, and they govern public life (though many laws that governments establish and enforce can also regulate private life).
Governments are usually formed to accomplish collective goals that individuals cannot do on their own. These goals include economic prosperity for the nation, secure national borders, and the safety and well-being of citizens. In addition, governments provide benefits that the market is unable to provide in sufficient quantity or at low enough cost. These are called public goods. Examples include national security and education.
The role of government in society is a fundamental issue in politics. Governments are responsible for the creation and enforcement of rules, defense, foreign affairs, the economy, and public services. Governments may take a variety of forms, however, and the form of government determines how it accomplishes its goals and what kind of benefits it provides.
One of the most important jobs of government is to create and enforce laws, and to protect people from crime, disease, unfair treatment, and natural disasters. These functions are often referred to as the “public good” or “welfare.” Governments that provide these services are obligated to collect taxes in order to fund them. In the United States, taxes go to help pay for things like public education, maintenance of roads and bridges, and protection of wildlife and national parks.
Ideally, the government should be designed to provide social benefits in a way that is fair and equitable for all citizens. For example, the government should provide equal opportunities for all, regardless of race or gender. It should be able to meet the needs of all its citizens, including the need for food, shelter, and medical care. The government should be free from conflicts of interest, meaning that business and financial interests should not interfere with its activities.
While there is no such thing as a perfect government, the best government should minimize the possibility of corruption or abuse of power. One way to do this is through the separation of powers, which requires that different branches of the government have distinct and independent functions, allowing them to compete against each other for power and prevent a single faction from dominating the entire government. James Madison argued for this system in Federalist 51.
Another feature of a good government is that it should be able to defend itself against attacks from other countries or terrorists. This requires the government to have the ability to fund its operations, build military hardware, and develop intelligence gathering capabilities. The government should also be able to respond quickly in the event of an attack, and it should ensure that its troops are well trained and prepared for combat.
Finally, the government should have a clear and coherent philosophy that informs its actions and policies. The philosophy should guide the creation of policy and laws, and it should determine the role that government should play in society. For example, if the philosophy is that government should promote social equality and the destruction of socioeconomic inequalities, then the government will set its spending priorities accordingly. If the philosophy is that government should balance national security with liberty, then the government will put limits on the extent to which it taps people’s phones or restricts what newspapers may publish.