Government is the system of people and institutions governing an organized community. Its purpose is to provide security, stability, and the means to set and enforce policy, while guaranteeing the rights of individual citizens. Governments come in many styles, but most share the central function of protecting and leading their people. They do this through a mix of policies, procedures and practices.
How adults decide the rules we live by, and how they make sure those rules are followed, is what you might think of when you hear the word “government.” In the United States, our government is a democracy, a republic and has a constitution. A constitution is a document that outlines the rules of our democracy, and it establishes the limits of the power of the government.
In a democratic society, the government is made up of elected representatives, who are responsible for representing the interests of their constituents and voting on issues on their behalf. A democratic society also allows competing political parties to form and compete for the support of voters and for the election of government officials.
Governments have been around for over four thousand years, but they have not all looked the same. Some governments are dictatorships, where a small group of people make all the decisions. Other governments are monarchies, where one person makes the decisions for the entire country. Still others are democracies, where the people make the decisions through a representative that they elect. Most countries have a mix of different types of government, and each type has advantages and disadvantages.
What the founders of our government envisioned for today’s American system was an energetic government equipped to protect us against domestic and foreign threats; secure trade and commerce; maintain the economy; protect the environment and the health of the public; limit the powers of government, so no one branch is too powerful; and ensure the rights of individuals are protected. Government at all levels of our society provides important public goods and services, including police and fire departments, parks and schools, and libraries. It is essential to the safety of our homes, businesses, and communities.
The Founders designed our government to be separated into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. They did this to prevent any single branch from having too much power, and they also envisioned that all branches would work together to make laws.
If a bill is passed in both chambers of Congress, it becomes law when the president signs it. If the president vetoes the bill, both houses must re-pass the legislation with a two-thirds majority in order for it to become law.
The Founders intended for the legislative branch to take a very long time to pass laws, so that all interested parties could weigh in and make changes to the bill as it was being drafted. In this way, they believed that the legislative process would be more open and accountable. This slow process is a benefit for the United States because it gives citizens more opportunities to influence government policy.