What Is Government?

Government is the means by which a country’s policies are created, enforced, and decided. Governments exist in the form of a legislature, executive, and judiciary. A government’s structure is determined by its own history, social and cultural factors, economic systems, and philosophical influences. The purpose of a government is to provide order and security to its citizens. It may also offer certain services that the market cannot provide, such as national defense and education. These services are called public goods.

Governments are usually based on the concept of sovereignty, which states that a nation has exclusive rights to control its territory and resources. The nation has a right to defend itself against attack and to tax its citizens. Governments are also responsible for promoting the welfare of its people. This includes providing social programs such as food stamps, unemployment insurance, and medical coverage. These programs can be controversial because they remove the individual’s responsibility for his or her own well being.

Ancient Greek writers such as Plato and Aristotle theorized a lot about the nature of government and how it should function. They distinguished between governments of one person (autocracy), a small group of elites (aristocracy), and the people as a whole (democracy). These theories formed the basis for modern classifications of political regimes.

In the United States, the Constitution assigns Congress the task of organizing the executive and judicial branches of government, raising revenue, declaring war, and making laws. The president has the power to veto legislation that is passed by Congress, and he or she also nominates heads of government departments and high court appointees. The Senate advises and consents on these nominations and votes on ratifying treaties.

Other important considerations about a government are how its leaders are chosen, and whether the people have the ability to make decisions. In a democracy, this is accomplished through direct or indirect democracy. In a direct democracy, the citizenry chooses its governing body through elections or other forms of deliberation. In an indirect democracy, a citizenry selects select members to form a governing body through election or other methods such as sortition.

Many important decisions about the structure and functioning of a government are influenced by the values that citizens hold, including the degree to which they value liberty, equality, and justice. If a government holds the belief that the free market should rule the economy, it will likely limit how much it taxes its citizens. If a government believes that social inequality is harmful, it will likely promote programs to address it. If a government is concerned about the safety of its citizens, it will probably restrict the extent to which law enforcement agencies can tap citizens’ phones and monitor their private communications. All of these beliefs are what gives a government its character and makes it unique. Different governments have very different rules and ways of doing business. No two governments are alike, and no two have exactly the same ideals or purposes.