Government is the way a group of people organizes itself to exercise authority and make rules. Governments vary in size, type, style and structure. Governments can be democratic (rule by the people), totalitarian (rule by a small group with a strong leader) or authoritarian (rule by one person). In some places, governments are run by a monarchy. Other places have aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy or other types of political systems. Governments can have many different purposes, but their primary function is to protect people and the environment and provide services. They can also help people with their daily lives by providing things like education, health care, infrastructure and jobs. Governments can also regulate access to common goods, such as natural resources, so that all members of society have a chance to use them.
In the United States, we have a system of government that includes three levels: national, state and local. The Constitution lays out a framework for how each level works, and years of building on that framework has created the system we have today. The national level, or federal government, includes executive figures, such as the president and vice president, as well as congressional leaders and the legislature; the Supreme Court; and many other institutions. The national government makes laws that affect all citizens, and it enforces those laws in the regions around the country. The national government also provides services, such as military protection, law enforcement, and mail delivery.
The next layer, the state government, focuses on regional issues and services that are too large for a local community to handle. It also oversees the local economy and is responsible for a wide range of issues, including health, education and public safety. Local governments are the smallest level of government. They provide services, such as police, fire departments, and libraries, in a smaller area than the city or county government.
At the local level, the town council or board of supervisors is in charge of government for a specific municipality. Its members are elected by residents to represent them. Governments at this level can also choose to be non-partisan, meaning that they allow voters to vote for candidates without being endorsed by a political party.
Governments at the state and local levels try to match their needs to the priorities of the people they serve. For example, if they want to invest in education, they might increase funding for schools and colleges. They might also try to balance their budgets by cutting costs, such as reducing the number of firefighters or mail carriers.
In a democracy, government is based on the principle that people should be able to change their leaders by voting in elections. Most countries have democratic governments. Other styles of government are tyranny, empire, feudalism and communism. In modern times, there are two main ways to govern a nation: a republic or a democracy. A republic has elected officials who represent the people, while a democracy has citizens governing themselves through a Constitution.