Government refers to the organization that sets the rules, policies and laws that govern a country or region. It also enforces those laws and provides many social services such as education, healthcare, transportation, law enforcement and support systems. Governments are generally considered to be a necessary part of society for a variety of reasons. For example, they can be more effective than private companies at providing certain services. They also can help manage externalities and other economic problems that the market cannot handle.
The basic purpose of most governments is to provide security for the people and to protect them from threats from outside their borders. They do this by instituting laws that all people must obey, and by punishing those who break the rules. Governments also have a number of tools that they can use to keep citizens safe, including military and diplomatic actions, as well as by negotiating international agreements.
In many democratic nations, a group of people who represent everyone in the nation are elected to make laws for all the citizens. This group is usually called Congress in the United States, and it is made up of two parts: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives has 435 members and the Senate has 115 members, with numbers being determined by the population of each state.
Another function of the government is to protect the common goods such as the air, water and wildlife. These are goods that all people can freely enjoy, but they are in limited supply, and they must be protected so that a few people do not take all of them and leave others with nothing. Governments also must maintain and improve infrastructure such as roads, schools and utilities.
One of the most important duties of government is to give citizens some basic social programs that provide them with food, shelter and other necessities. For example, in the United States, the government provides medical insurance and social security, while many European countries have extensive welfare programs. While these programs may make some citizens feel secure and taken care of, critics argue that they are expensive and destroy the individual’s sense of responsibility for his or her own well being.
The role of government is constantly changing and adapting to new challenges. For example, the current economic crisis and globalization mean that governments must find ways to limit the negative impacts of these changes. They must manage externalities, promote economic growth and distribute resources, oversee federal budgets and regulate taxes. They must also address social inequalities and market failures.
Governments also must develop and implement policy that reflects the values of their constituents. For example, if the government believes that egalitarianism is a desirable value, it will advocate for programs that provide all people with equal benefits. Likewise, if the government believes that national security is more important than liberty, it will allow police to spy on citizens’ phone calls and restrict what newspapers can publish.