The Basics of Government

Government is the system of rules that manages a nation, state or other political unit. Its responsibilities include the security of the people and their property, the economy, and public services. It also controls the military, foreign affairs and the legal system. Governments make laws and collect taxes. They have a monopoly on the use of force and provide police to keep citizens safe. Governments are able to do these things because they have the power to tax, impose rules and regulations, and compel citizen compliance.

The earliest forms of government evolved as people discovered that protection was easier when they formed groups. These groups were ruled by a few powerful individuals, known as monarchs. Monarchs gained power through war, conquest or inheritance. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt were an example of this type of government. As civilization progressed, the need for the rulers to command large armies and to collect taxes increased. This in turn led to the development of bureaucracy, the centralized administration of a government by officials. Governments grew to be complex and centralized, with the people having little or no real freedom.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a movement to decentralize power and give more control to the people. The idea was that if the people controlled the government, they would be more likely to protect themselves from threats and make laws to promote the common good. This concept of democracy, which means “rule by the people,” became more popular in Europe and America. In a democracy, the rulers are elected by citizens. The US government has a legislative branch, the House of Representatives and Senate, an executive branch, and a judicial branch.

The executive branch consists of the President, Vice President, and heads of each department of the government. The judicial branch is composed of the Supreme Court and other courts. The Congress is responsible for making the laws, and it has the power to confirm or reject presidential nominations for agencies and other positions and to impose taxes and duties on imported and exported goods.

In a democracy, the responsibilities of a government are to create laws, enforce those laws, secure the borders and the safety of the citizens, regulate interstate and international commerce, and provide public services. It is impossible for private businesses to provide some of the public goods that a government offers, such as education and national defense. Governments can afford to provide these goods because they can levy taxes, tap into the resources of an entire nation and compel citizen compliance. It is important for the people to know what their government is doing, so they can participate in the political process and voice their opinions on issues that affect them. In countries that have a democratic government, the rights of citizens include freedom of speech and the press. Governments that allow these rights help to create a sense of trust between the people and their leaders.