A group of people living together must decide on the rules they should live by, and make sure these rules are followed. The system of making and enforcing these rules is called government. Governments can be local, city, state or national. They include a leader, a legislature or parliament, courts, armed forces, and other institutions and agencies. Governments may also have diplomats who travel to other countries and meet with their counterparts. They seek to solve problems and find ways for countries to trade or work together, avoid war and share cultural or social experiences and knowledge.
Government provides the services people need but cannot produce for themselves, such as national security and education. It can raise and deploy large armies, gather taxes to pay for them, and educate the people who serve in those armies. Governments can also protect the country from other countries that wish to attack or invade it.
Most governments provide citizens with the opportunity to participate in a political process where they can voice their opinions to those in power, and choose leaders. This participation is often referred to as democracy. Governments also have laws that protect citizens from harm, such as theft and homicide.
All governments make laws that regulate certain activities. Most have a tax system that involves collecting money from citizens through various means, such as sales and income taxes. Local, state and national governments draft budgets that determine how to spend the money collected from citizens. This money goes to things such as police and fire departments, schools, state parks and wildlife management.
The United States is a constitutional republic, with a separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. The founding fathers of the United States designed this form of government to be fair and to help it function well. In his Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln said that a government is best that “is of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Many businesses benefit from having set-aside contracts with federal, state or local governments. These contracts allow them to predict their incomes over a period of time, which can help them make financial decisions and plan for future growth.
In addition to providing a means for citizens to participate in the political process, most governments provide public goods. The most important of these are probably education and national security. They are the kinds of goods that a private business cannot supply, because they require the deployment of resources over a wide geographic area and the ability to collect large amounts of money from citizens.
Governments have been around for as long as humans have, even in the most uncivilized of places. In fact, even in wolf packs and other untamed fauna pecking orders are established. As the world became more populated and civilized, more and more of these structures emerged to manage the growing responsibilities of managing large populations over great distances.