Government is the organization through which a political unit (national, state, or local) exercises its authority and performs functions. A government is comprised of a number of political institutions, such as city councils, school boards, township board of supervisors, the Congress, and national agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.
The purpose of a government is to make laws and ensure they are followed. It is also responsible for providing certain services that are essential to a society, such as healthcare and education. Lastly, a government should be able to deal with problems that cannot be solved through market forces. For example, if companies pollute the air or water, they should be punished through the legal system. However, this is not always possible, especially for people who do not have access to the court system. Governments should be able to solve these problems through the use of regulations and other measures.
Another important function of government is regulating access to public goods. These are things that everyone can benefit from, but that have limited supply. Examples include public schools, police departments, and mail carriers. If too many people take these resources, there may not be enough left for everyone to have them. Governments should regulate how much of these resources individuals can consume, and set up a system whereby citizens can complain about violations of the rules.
Some governments also provide social programs for their citizens. The most controversial of these are welfare and medical benefits. The goal of these programs is to provide people with jobs and money, so they do not have to rely on private charity for their basic needs. However, critics argue that these programs are expensive and destroy the individual’s sense of responsibility for his or her own well being.
In addition to regulating the economy, governments must also manage security and defense. This includes the development and maintenance of a strong police force, a fair court system, and a stable military. Governments should be able to protect their citizens from violence, both from domestic and foreign foes. The classic justification for government comes from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, which describes a world of unrelenting insecurity without a central authority to protect citizens.
A final role of government is to manage the country’s finances. This involves generating revenue through taxes, borrowing, and investing. Governments are usually responsible for managing inflation and preventing a depreciation of the currency. Governments should be able to respond quickly to economic crisis, and should have sufficient financial reserves to withstand any shocks.
The United States is a federal republic, which means it has three branches of government: the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. The Congress, Senate, and House of Representatives are part of the legislative branch, which makes laws. The President and Cabinet are part of the executive branch, which carries out these laws. The Supreme Court and other courts are part of the judicial branch, which evaluates laws.