Government is a system of people and laws that defines and controls the country you live in. It is concerned with public life, though some of the things it establishes and enforces can regulate private behavior as well. Governments can be found at the local, state and national level and take on many different forms, but they all have some common functions.
Governments have a responsibility to ensure social order, protect their citizens from external threats, and provide services. They must also set taxes and collect revenue to pay for their programs and services. To make sure that the money they collect is used as intended, governments use budgets. The budget allows the public to review the allocation of resources and provide feedback to their legislators.
Depending on the type of government, some of these duties may be more prominent than others. For example, a democratic government places more emphasis on the individual rights of citizens and the need to limit the influence of the wealthy and powerful. Its policies are usually decided upon through elections, and the elected officials make decisions about how to govern the country.
In the United States, the federal government provides services such as public education, public transportation and mail service, and fire and police protection. It also establishes and enforces laws to protect consumers, workers and the environment. Some of these rules are controversial. Businesses often complain about the rules while simultaneously lobbying to have certain laws changed in their favor.
At the local level, governments often establish and enforce zoning and building codes and land-use regulations. They may also have planning departments to coordinate growth and development. Local governments also help to maintain a clean and safe environment, and they provide parks and other recreational areas for citizens to enjoy.
Governments may also spend funds to protect a resource that everyone can use but is in limited supply, such as fish in the sea or fresh water. The purpose of protecting these resources is to prevent a few people from taking everything and leaving others with nothing.
Governments at the state and local levels often create and administer state and local education systems. They also manage state roads and bridges, and oversee natural resource management. Local governments also provide services such as fire and police protection.
At the federal level, Congress sets laws to govern how the federal government operates. It creates departments and agencies, sets rules for their operation, and allocates funds to them. Federal spending largely comes from income taxes and borrowing, which is added to the nation’s debt. Congress’s appropriations committees, through their 12 subcommittees, conduct hearings to examine the needs of federal departments and agencies and approve funding bills. The bills then move to the House and Senate, where they are amended. Once a bill has passed both chambers, it can be signed into law by the president. In most cases, congressional appropriations bills are subject to budget reconciliation.