A government is a group of people that take care of the social welfare, law and order, defense, and financial affairs of a country or state. Each government has its own constitution and laws that govern it. There are many different types of governments that vary in how they are organized and what duties they have.
The most common type of government is a democracy, where the citizens decide who will be in charge by voting for representatives or delegates that represent them in a legislative body called a parliament or congress. Representatives and delegates are usually part of political parties that have similar ideas and philosophies on what role government should play.
Governments also provide services and programs to their citizens that would not be profitable enough in the private sector to justify their cost. Examples of these public goods and services include education, health care, police protection, roads, and water supply. Governments provide these programs mainly by collecting taxes or borrowing money to pay for them. Taxes and debts are paid by all citizens, even those who do not use the service or benefit from it. Governments may also redistribute wealth by transferring funds from those who have more wealth to those in need. This is a controversial aspect of the economy and is often opposed by free market economists.
Another important task of governments is solving problems that cannot be solved by markets or by individual action. For example, if a polluting industry is damaging the environment, it may be difficult or impossible for individuals to sue the company in court for compensation. However, the government may regulate the pollution and punish businesses that violate environmental regulations.
Governments are usually organized by three different branches: the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. The legislative branch is made up of the senate and house of representatives, which set the laws. The executive branch is comprised of the president and cabinet, which carries out those laws. The judicial branch, which includes the Supreme Court and other federal courts, reviews and evaluates laws and determines their validity.
The exact limits of government power are a matter of great debate. If a government wants to increase security, it may authorize the tapping of phones and restrict what newspapers can publish. If it is more concerned with the welfare of its people, it will probably spend more on public education, transportation, housing for the poor, and health care. It is also possible for a government to choose a balance between security and liberty, depending on its values and priorities.