The government is a system that governs an organized community, usually a country. Governments make laws and enforce them. They collect taxes and provide services like schools, police departments, and mail service. Governments also protect their citizens from enemies and natural disasters, and they ensure that everyone has access to valuable goods. Governments also regulate the distribution of common goods, such as water and land.
Governments have existed for as long as humans have. Even uncivilized primates and mammals organize themselves into hierarchies where dominant members enforce the rules of the group, which are sometimes called “rules of government.” The word “government” derives from Latin “gubernator” meaning “master of the house” or “boss.” This reflects the ancient idea that the people’s elected representatives should be in charge of their community, nation or state.
Modern governments are often called “democracies.” Democracies allow their citizens to participate in politics by letting them choose their own leaders and voting for them. Many western democracies allow their citizens to write and publish opinions, criticize the actions of their governments, and protest against injustices. They are also characterized by freedom of speech and press, as well as the right to vote in elections.
At the national level, the United States government provides stability and security, primarily through its military and public safety services such as police and fire departments. In addition, the federal government provides social programs that help people with jobs, health care and housing. These programs are controversial because some people believe that they take away the responsibility of individual citizens to care for their own needs and to work hard to improve their own lives.
The responsibilities of the United States federal government are enumerated in its Constitution. The legislative branch, consisting of the Senate and House of Representatives, makes laws. The executive branch, including the president and his cabinet, implements those laws. The judicial branch, including the Supreme Court and other federal courts, evaluates those laws. The founders of the United States understood that giving any one branch too much power could cause problems. Therefore, they established a system of checks and balances, in which each branch limits the powers of its two counterparts. This is known as the separation of powers. Each branch can change or veto legislation passed by the other, and the president cannot impose his own law without a vote of Congress. The president can also appoint individuals to various government posts, but those appointments must be approved by the Senate. The president may also sign or veto bills passed by Congress, although it takes two-thirds of both houses for a bill to pass over his veto. The president is the commander in chief of the military, but Congress must authorize funding and vote to declare war. The president may also appoint a Secretary of State, but the Senate must approve that appointment. He can also issue presidential memoranda and proclamations. He may also negotiate and ratify treaties with foreign nations.