What Is Government?


Government is the group of people who make and enforce the rules in a country. In the United States, our government is made up of three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. Government makes sure everyone follows the rules and judges any conflicts between the rules. Government also provides goods and services that are important for our safety, health, and welfare, such as schools, fire departments, police, and mail service.

Historically, governments developed as a way to protect people from other groups who might harm them. Over time, they evolved into organizations that managed all aspects of the community. Governments are necessary for the existence of civilized societies, and they come in many different forms. The most common forms of government are democracies and totalitarian regimes, although there are many other types.

One of the most important jobs that a government does is to protect common goods like wildlife and natural resources. These things can be used by everyone, but they are in limited supply. If too many people take too much, then there will not be enough left for everyone to use. Governments also manage public goods such as water and air, which are free to all but are also in limited supply. Governments must protect these resources so that some people don’t take them all, leaving others with nothing (Figure 1.3).

Most countries today have some form of government. Some have a democracy, where the people choose their leaders. Others have a monarchy, where the leader is chosen by hereditary right. In most cases, the type of government depends on the political system and culture of a country.

In the United States, we have a representative democracy. This means that a small number of people out of all the citizens are elected to make laws for the entire country. This group is called Congress. It consists of the Senate and House of Representatives. The number of members in each branch is based on the population of the country. Whenever a new state joins the United States, the number of senators and representatives will increase.

The executive branch of our government is led by the President. He or she carries out the laws that Congress passes and can declare war. The executive branch also includes the Cabinet, 15 executive departments, and numerous boards, commissions, and committees. The judicial branch reviews the decisions of other branches and can overturn unconstitutional laws.

Another part of the government’s job is to provide social programs for people in need. These programs may help pay for food, housing, and medical care. Some people argue that the role of government in providing these kinds of social programs is too large, while others believe that it is a good way to help people when they need it.

People who work for the government usually have higher job security than people working in private businesses. This is because government jobs are less susceptible to economic changes that might lead to layoffs in the private sector.