Government is the way that people organize themselves to make decisions and to make sure that everyone is treated fairly. Governments are responsible for setting and enforcing rules, protecting citizens from violence or crime, and providing goods and services. Governments can be at the national, state or local level. People decide how their governments should be run by voting for people to represent them.
Governments around the world differ, but most of them try to accomplish some shared goals, such as economic prosperity and security for all their citizens. They also protect common goods – things that everyone can use but are in limited supply, such as fish in the ocean or clean drinking water – so that a few people cannot take all the available supplies and leave others with nothing.
All forms of government have their advantages and disadvantages. Each country’s form of government is a result of its own environment, history, political ideals, and intellectual and philosophical influences. In the United States, for example, people elect representatives to city councils and state legislatures, which then pass laws governing their areas. They also draft budgets to determine how to spend the money they raise through taxes on income, property and sales. On the national level, Congress makes laws and the President signs them into law.
A key part of the American system is that it limits the power of government officials by establishing checks and balances between the different parts of the federal government. The system is called the separation of powers and it provides opportunities for citizens to influence how their government works. For example, if a citizen believes that a law passed by Congress is not in the best interests of the nation, they can try to persuade the President to veto it.
The most important function of government is the protection of citizens’ rights – freedom of speech and expression, the right to own property, the right to vote, and so on. Governments should respect the opinions of all people, whether they are in favor of or against a particular policy. They should also provide economic freedom, which means allowing people to own their own businesses and private property, and ensure that all people have access to education and health care.
People need a structure that allows them to meet their needs and achieve their dreams. The role of government in that structure has changed dramatically over time, but the basic idea has remained the same. The guiding principles of modern democracies include majority rule with minority rights, accountability for elected and appointed officials, limitations on the power of government, and checks and balances between levels of government. Abraham Lincoln summed it up when he said, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” These ideas are not new, but they have only become widely accepted in recent times. They are the result of a long struggle for the rights of ordinary people.