What Is Government?


Government is the system of authority and rules by which a society organizes itself and assigns responsibility for accomplishing goals and providing benefits that the community as a whole needs. Governments around the world aim to secure economic prosperity, ensure national borders are defended and provide for the safety and well-being of citizens. Governments make laws to maintain order, prevent crime, protect property and regulate business activities, such as banking, food and automobile manufacturing. Governments also provide public goods such as education, transportation and mail service.

Governments vary by the type of political system they use to make decisions. Some have a monarch and royal family that act as a ceremonial entity with no real power, while others may be based on an elected council. Most governments, however, have a governing body with the power to pass laws and make budgets that allocate money to different services. These bodies include city councils, state legislatures and Congress. Some governments have an executive branch that includes the president and other high-ranking government officials. Others have a judicial branch, including the Supreme Court and other federal courts.

Most governments impose taxes on their citizens to collect funds for the various programs they run. They may also levy tariffs and other duties on products that enter or leave their jurisdiction. Those funds help fund the services provided by government agencies, such as police and fire departments and public education. Governments that have to balance a budget and decide how to spend the money they collect must make difficult decisions on how best to use it.

A government’s primary purpose is to protect and uphold the freedoms of its people. The Founders of the United States Constitution believed that those freedoms were natural rights, which each person is born with and can never give up. The Founders created a system of limited government with specific, enumerated powers to preserve the freedoms of the people and protect their property. Governments that have too much power can violate those freedoms and lead to tyranny.

In addition to protecting the freedoms of its citizens, a government must also be prepared to respond to crises or threats from outside the country. To do that, it must have an army and other security forces to defend the nation from attacks and invaders. Governments may employ diplomats to communicate with the representatives of other countries, which can help avoid war, make commercial agreements and exchange cultural or social experiences.

A government must protect the privacy of its citizens while ensuring that they have access to information about how their tax dollars are being spent. For example, law enforcement agencies must not disclose booking or arrest photographs of individuals unless the release will serve a legitimate legal purpose. Governments must also set clear guidelines regarding the deletion of identifying details from records they make available. Those that do not comply with these guidelines are violating the right to privacy. A government should have a committee on open government that is responsible for establishing these standards.