Government is the organized system by which a nation or a state functions. It is the sum of the institutions that a society relies on to administer the laws of the land, provide security for its citizens and ensure economic stability. The form of government a nation chooses to adopt is often dictated by its social and cultural beliefs, values and history. Government can be categorized in many ways, including the type of democracy it practices, whether it is a republic or monarchy and whether or not it adheres to a constitution.
The most important characteristics of any government are its legitimacy, accountability and a balance of powers. Legitimacy means that the government is founded on a set of principles, policies and practices that give it the authority to govern. Accountability is the system by which elected or appointed officials are held responsible for their actions. A balance of power refers to the division of responsibilities between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government, which prevents one branch from becoming too powerful. The Framers of the United States Constitution were well aware of this need and created a federal structure with checks and balances.
It is impossible to make politicians angels who will never try to grab more power than they should, so the Framers designed the Constitution to keep them in check with a variety of mechanisms. First, they separated the powers of the federal government among three branches, or divisions: the legislative, executive and judicial. Then, they gave each branch the ability to check or balance the other two in meaningful ways. For example, Congress cannot pass a law that would go against the Constitution without the President’s consent. The president, in turn, has the power to veto a law passed by Congress. The framers also incorporated the notion of a bill of rights that protects individual citizens against the excesses of the government.
The founding fathers of the United States drew on a wide range of political philosophies and examples from throughout world history when they drafted the Constitution. They favored what they considered the best aspects of Roman and Greek models of self-government, as well as other democratic republics, to help them construct a government for the people. Their aim was to create a democracy with a republican form of government and a Constitution that protected the rights of its citizens. The founding fathers believed this system could allow the people to participate in government by having voice and choice in how things are run and what rules apply. It could also enable them to maintain a balance between liberty and the rule of law.