Government is the organization through which a political unit (national, state, or local) exercises authority and performs functions. A government is composed of those who manage the affairs of a nation and who exercise wide-ranging powers over its people, resources and environment. Governments can vary in form and may be described as a monarchy, oligarchy, democracy (direct or representative), autocracy, communism, or socialism.
Governments are important to a functional society because they provide goods or services that the market cannot provide in sufficient quantity or at low enough prices to meet the needs of all citizens. Examples of these public goods are education, health care, and national defense. Governments also provide a means by which citizens can express their views to those who govern them, such as in free and open elections. Governments also regulate access to some natural resources, such as grazing and hunting lands, wildlife management, and water supplies.
The definition of government is broad and includes many aspects of the way a society is run, from the size of the population to the level of economic development. The most fundamental aspect of a government, however, is the recognition that a group of people needs protection from others, and that it is possible to protect the interests of the whole by the group’s decision-making process, or, more specifically, by creating an entity which enforces laws on behalf of the whole.
In the United States, there are three levels of government – national, state, and local. Each level of government has a different purpose and a different set of laws, but all three levels work together to serve the people of this country. National, state, and local governments are sometimes referred to as the rungs on a ladder; a nation’s constitution frames its structure and defines the powers of each rung. Generally, the rungs above do not pass laws that conflict with those of the rungs below.
Students will learn about the branches of the US government, how they are separated from one another, and the purpose behind this separation. They will also gain a better understanding of how their voice can be heard by those in government, as well as why some voices are not represented in the governmental process. They will be introduced to political parties and understand how these groups help the governmental system function, even when they disagree with the policies of those they represent.