The Basics of Government

Government is the system of rules and responsibilities that sets the parameters for day-to-day behavior in a given society. It protects citizens from outside interference, provides law and order, and may offer social programs to assist people with needs or problems. It also imposes taxes and levies regulations to raise money and manage the distribution of resources. Governments are typically organized into distinct institutions, called branches, with different powers, functions, duties and responsibilities. The number and division of these institutions vary between governments. In general, a government has some form of constitution that establishes its structure and principles.

In addition, a government may choose to support particular ideals and values that will guide it in its decisions about what to do or not do. A government that supports the ideal of egalitarianism, for example, may raise taxes and spend more on public education, transportation, housing and care for the elderly. A government that believes in national security might expand the power of its police forces to tap citizens’ phones or restrict what newspapers can publish.

Governments are generally classified by whether they have the authority to govern over one person (autocracy, such as a monarchy), a select group of people (an aristocracy), or a whole population (democracy). In some states, multiple political parties compete for control of government offices through elections. The number of political parties that are allowed in an election and the way they organize themselves to run candidates for office also differ between states.

Many people believe that the government should have a role in helping people with life’s events, such as providing food stamps or health insurance coverage. Other people argue that the government should impose limits on businesses to prevent them from harming the environment, abusing workers or consumers, or engaging in other practices that would be harmful to society.

In the United States, the legislative branch of the government is known as Congress. It consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate, along with various committees that support Congress in its work. Congress has a wide range of powers, including the ability to pass laws and regulate interstate commerce. It also has the power to approve or reject presidential nominations, and to declare war.

The executive branch is composed of the President and a number of cabinet-level departments. This branch of the government is responsible for enforcing federal law, conducting foreign policy, and managing military operations. It also oversees the budget of the federal government, and the judicial branch. This branch is responsible for hearing cases involving allegations of violations of the law and determining punishments. The judicial branch also interprets constitutional and legal matters. In most countries, the judicial branch is independent of the legislature and executive branch. This is known as the separation of powers.