Government is an institution that sets the rules and responsibilities for citizens and protects people and their property. It is also the source of many services such as law enforcement, education, and healthcare. Government has been around for a long time, but its role is constantly changing. Some governments still make laws and take care of their people, while others have privatized these functions to other organizations. But no matter what form it takes, it must provide stability and protection from outside threat.
In most modern nations, a representative democracy is the type of government that exists. This means that a few people out of everyone in the country are elected to make laws for all citizens. In the United States, this group is called Congress. It has 435 representatives, each representing a district with its own population. It also has 100 senators, with two per state. The President of the United States is our head of state and he makes sure that everyone follows the laws that Congress passes.
Another important function of government is to manage public access to common goods, such as natural resources. Private businesses often do not have the ability to offer these goods in large enough quantities or at low enough costs for everyone to benefit. For example, the invisible hand of the market may not be able to supply all the water in our rivers or lakes at affordable prices. But the government can do it. Governments regulate the amount of water that can be drawn from a river or lake and establish conservation policies. They also manage the distribution of other natural resources.
The government can also be responsible for providing social programs for its citizens. These can include welfare programs and national medical insurance. They can also include stipends for the homeless or job training for the unemployed. This is one of the most controversial areas for government because some people believe that it takes away a person’s sense of responsibility for his or her own well being.
The last major function of government is to protect the nation from external threat. This is a very difficult task for any organization to perform. Governments must be able to create armies, plan for defense and attack, and collect intelligence about enemies. These are all incredibly complex tasks that only the government can perform because it is able to tax and draw upon the resources of its entire population. It is also able to force compliance with its laws by threat of violence and incarceration. It must balance this security against the rights of its citizens to liberty and privacy, which is why it must be careful not to abuse its power. This is why it is important to have checks and balances among the three branches of government. This ensures that no single branch can act without the approval of the other two. This is known as the separation of powers.