What Is Government?


Government is the organization through which people exercise their political authority and make rules. People can form governments at various levels—national, state and local. In the United States, for example, citizens elect representatives to city councils, state legislatures and Congress. These bodies make laws and determine how to raise money—for example, through taxes on income, property and sales. Then they draft budgets to determine how to spend the money that they have collected. They might allotted funds for schools, police and fire departments, maintenance of highways, management of national parks, or whatever else people need in their communities.

Another important function of government is to protect common goods such as natural resources, wildlife and public lands. These are goods that all people can use, but they are in limited supply. If too many people take too freely from these goods, they might not be able to access them in the future. Government ensures that people do not over-consume them so that they are not depleted.

Aristotle, in his book Politics, discussed the different types of government. He compared them to the government of one person (monarchy), that of a small group of people (aristocracy), that of the whole people, as a democracy, and that of a mixture of these three forms of government (oligarchy).

In modern times, most countries have democratic republics with a Constitution. These republics are based on the idea that government should represent all citizens, not just a small portion of them. They have a system of checks and balances so that the government does not become too powerful, or violate people’s rights. For example, the President can sign executive orders that carry the force of law, but Congress in its legislative branch can vote to veto these orders. Congress also has the power to confirm or reject presidential nominations for judicial positions, and the Senate can impeach federal judges.

Many people think that government jobs are safer than private-sector jobs because they are less likely to be downsized or closed altogether. Government employees are usually paid well, and they often have good benefits. The level of security that government jobs offer is a significant factor in the growing popularity of these careers, especially among young people who want to have a say in their nation’s decisions. Moreover, many people believe that government jobs allow them to make the world a better place. Nevertheless, there are some disadvantages to working for the government. For example, some politicians are accused of corruption and have resigned.