What Is Government?


Government is a system through which a nation exercises authority and rules over its citizens. Its goal is to provide for citizens’ needs that cannot be met through market forces or private organizations. Examples include roads, schools and hospitals. Government also provides insurance payments when people lose their jobs and gives low cost loans for victims of natural disasters. It collects taxes to fund these services. Its role in society is to encourage life-affirming patterns of behavior and proscribe destructive ones. It also promotes economic freedom, respects property and defends its citizens’ rights to privacy.

Unlike the family or clan, which governs a group of people under its control, the idea of government is to provide a way for people to govern themselves and each other. Governments do this by making laws and enforcing them. In modern times, most governments are democracies or authoritarian regimes with a variety of hybrid systems that fall between the extremes. Historically, common forms of government included monarchy, aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, theocracy and tyranny.

One of the central ideas of any political philosophy is the nature of government. Aristotle defined government as the comprehensive regulation of the ends of human existence. Many philosophers since have expanded upon this concept. Among these, the most influential have been Aristotle and Karl Marx.

Aristotle believed that human perfection could only occur within the context of political society, while Marx considered the state a temporary phenomenon to be abandoned in favor of a more permanent stage of world peace and equality.

Besides promoting life-affirming behavior and proscription of destructive patterns, there are some other key principles that most people believe are important to have in a government:

Governments should not interfere in the personal lives of their citizens, except when they are engaging in activities that affect others. People should have a right to know the process through which their government makes decisions by reviewing documents and statistics leading up to those determinations. This is a basic element in a free society.

The main function of a government is to protect the safety of its citizens and provide for their basic needs. To accomplish this, governments must have a police force and a court system that will uphold citizens’ rights. They should also have a system to protect the economy by encouraging business and ensuring that contracts are honored.

Governments must have a legislative branch that will make, change or repeal the nation’s or state’s laws. Americans often refer to those who work in the legislature as “lawmakers,” while Britons refer to them as MPs. Most modern governments are based on democratic principles, where the people choose representatives to make these choices through elections. They should respect the rights of their citizens to privacy by not listening in on their phones or restricting what they can publish in newspapers. Government should also be transparent, allowing the people to see how their tax dollars are being spent. This allows them to hold elected officials accountable for their actions.