What Is Government?

Government is a system of rules and people who make and enforce those rules. It’s what adults do to solve big problems like protecting us from a natural disaster, helping the poor, and keeping traffic moving on the freeways. At a national level, governments can be massive systems with a lot of different institutions and leaders.

The United States Government has three main branches: The Legislative Branch makes the laws, and the Executive Branch enforces them. The Judicial Branch makes sure those laws are fair and equal. The United States Government also has a Cabinet that handles the day-to-day work, and the President helps to solve bigger problems for the country.

It’s hard to say exactly why governments exist, but they probably started with the need to protect people from conflicts and provide law and order. People have always argued over what rules should be followed, and there is no one answer to that question. One idea is that humans are naturally selfish and greedy, so they have to fight over property or privileges. That argument might explain why people fought over the rights of their land in early civilizations, or why they fought over property in modern Europe and the United States.

At the local level, governments provide many services, such as delivering mail, maintaining parks and schools, and fighting fires. To pay for those things, governments collect taxes and tariffs from the citizens they serve. They may also mandate spending on certain projects, a practice known as legislatively directed spending or “earmarks.”

At a national level, governments provide services such as defense, social security, and the protection of our borders. To pay for those services, Congress collects taxes and fees, and occasionally borrows money.

The United States Constitution lays out how our government works and the limits on its powers. It’s a complicated document, and it takes an experienced lawyer to understand. One important point is that our Constitution gives the power to create laws to Congress, and only Congress can repeal those laws. This helps to keep the United States Constitution as a strong, effective, and democratically accountable document.

Congress passes laws by a majority vote of the members of both chambers. Then the President signs or vetoes them. If a bill isn’t signed by the President, it becomes law when two-thirds of the Senate and House agree to override the veto. Congress also decides how to allocate funds among the three branches of our government. Sometimes, these allocations are controversial.