The central role of government is to provide a structure by which people can share in the making and enforcing of decisions. Governments do this by imposing laws, taxing its citizens to raise money for public spending, providing services and regulating the conduct of people and businesses. They also have monopolies on the legal use of force. Governments are usually organized into distinct institutions called branches with different powers, functions and responsibilities. These include legislature, executive and judicial. Governments may be democratic, monarchical, republican or authoritarian in form.
Some governments also regulate business, creating and enforcing consumer-protection, worker-safety and other laws that limit the power of businesses to do whatever they want. This can create tension in society because businesses complain about the rules while also trying to influence them in their favor.
In a democracy, government is chosen through representatives elected by the people. Governments in democracies usually strive for a balance of majorities and minorities, accountability to citizens through the election process, and checks and balances to prevent a faction from gaining too much power. Governments in democracies also typically have a bill of rights to protect the freedoms of individuals.
Many governments also spend taxpayer money on social programs to help those who cannot care for themselves. This can be controversial, because some people believe that people should be responsible for their own well being, rather than depending on the charity of others. Governments also regulate the activities of businesses by imposing taxes and rules that limit them from damaging the environment, mistreating workers or misleading consumers.
Governments also manage the distribution of goods and services by creating and enforcing a system of law that lists the acts that are against the laws, describes the punishments for breaking them and makes sure that justice is served. Governments also have a monopoly on the use of force, which they exercise through police forces to enforce their laws.
Governments typically establish a budget to determine how the funds it collects will be spent. At the local level, this can include funding for city parks, fire and police departments, and road maintenance. At the state and federal levels, this can include funds for education, medical and social services, national security, and wildlife management. Governments are usually structured so that officials and political parties must compete with each other to gain control of the government, and in some cases they are divided into separate legislative, executive and judicial branches. This allows politicians to compete with each other and prevent a single party from controlling the government for too long. In addition, a balance of power between the different branches helps to ensure that the government does not become too powerful and overreach its bounds. This is known as the separation of powers.