Understanding the Levels of Government

Government is a system through which people organize themselves to create and enforce rules. Governments also provide the benefits that everyone needs, like national security and education. They accomplish these goals through taxes, military service, and bureaucracy. Governments can be found at the local, state, and federal levels.

The word “government” comes from the Latin gubernator, which means “ruler.” A government is an organization through which people exercise power to make and enforce laws within a community or nation. A nation is a sizable group of people that shares common bonds such as race, language, or customs. Governments help ensure a peaceful and stable society and are responsible for maintaining order, providing national security, and promoting economic prosperity.

A government may take on many different forms, but all share the same essential duties. These include defining and enforcing rules, defending the country against attack or threat, and providing public services like schools, fire departments, police forces, and mail carriers. A government must also protect the use of common goods like clean air and water. These are goods that everyone can freely use but are in limited supply, and they must be protected so that a few people do not take them all and leave others with nothing.

Governments must also ensure that citizens have a voice in the way they are run. In western democracies, people vote for their representatives who create and implement laws that govern the country or state. These governments must also allow citizens to speak freely and to express their opinions through the media.

While some philosophers argue that government evolved from the family, the most common view is that it began with warlords and petty despots who took certain patches of land as their own territory and claimed authority over the people living on it. They also imposed law and taxation in order to keep their territories under control and to impose their will on those who lived there.

There are a variety of ways that people have formed their governments, from a one-man dictatorship to an elaborate democracy. Each form has its own advantages and disadvantages. Government is a complex and important subject that should be studied by students as part of their civics or political science curriculum.

Using the Levels of Government Ladder (handout), explain the differences between the national, state, and local levels of government. The national level, framed by the Constitution, is on the top rung. State and local governments are on the next two rungs, and they can’t pass laws that conflict with those passed at the national level. In addition, they must also meet the needs of their residents, which means funding things like state colleges and universities, road maintenance, and wildlife management.