Government is the system of order for a nation, state or other political unit. It is responsible for creating and enforcing rules of society, protecting the economy, national security and providing public services such as education, health care and transportation. Governments also take on the challenge of ensuring that people have access to essential goods and services, such as food and water, or even basic shelter. Governments do this by taxing citizens and raising funds to provide services and programs, usually with the goal of promoting certain social or economic ideals.
Governments vary by form and function, with some countries or states having more power than others. They may be democratic, republican or monarchical. The specific structure of a government is described by a constitution, a statement of its principles and philosophy.
The most common type of government is a democracy, where most citizens are allowed to vote for representatives who make laws on their behalf. Other forms of government include a dictatorship, communism, capitalism, a monarchy or an oligarchy. Each has a different set of priorities for its citizens. Most western democracies, for example, promote freedom of speech and the press. They also protect individual rights and property ownership.
Because governments have the ability to tax people, they must also be able to control their own spending and make sure that resources are being spent wisely. To achieve this, most democracies have separation of powers and a system of checks and balances to ensure that one branch of government does not become too powerful and trample on the rights of citizens.
For example, if a president believes that the best way to fight terrorists is to spy on them, the Constitution provides a procedure for citizens to raise their voices against this policy and persuade the president to change his mind. This is known as the legislative process. It is a powerful means by which citizens can influence policy and laws.
Governments must also create the funds to pay for their policies and programs, so they may raise taxes through levies and tariffs or authorize borrowing to finance their work. Moreover, Congress may spend money on particular projects that the legislature considers important by specifying them in law. This type of spending is called legislatively directed spending or earmarks. Because of the variety of needs that governments must meet, they often have to sacrifice some of their priorities in order to be successful. For instance, it is unlikely that any business could adequately protect a nation from attack without the resources of a large military budget. This is one reason why governments are so critical to the success of civilization. Only a strong, effective government can draw on the full resources of its people to meet the societal needs of all its citizens. Without it, a country would be defenseless against terrorists, drug gangs and other threats. This is why the Founders created a constitutional republic, and it is why so many other nations have modeled their own versions of this model.