What Is Government?

Government is the system by which people who live in a society make decisions about how they want that society organized and what goals it should strive for. Governments are made up of people who have the power to enforce laws and to provide services for the benefit of citizens. These services may be in the form of social welfare or protection from external threats. Governments also have a monopoly on the legal use of force and they usually maintain a police force to ensure that people comply with the law. There are many different types of government, and each country or state has a specific government that reflects its environment, history and political ideology.

Governments are typically formed around a central authority, but there is much variation in the structure of government and how its power is distributed. This is because of the wide range of influences that shape the nature and characteristics of government. These influences include social and cultural conditions, economic organization, intellectual and philosophical influence, geographic or climate and historical circumstance. Governments are also shaped by the ideas of politicians and their political ideals. For example, the idea of elected officials rather than a monarchy was influenced by the American revolution and the philosophies of the Enlightenment, which emphasized that the rights of the individual are more important than any other consideration.

In most modern democracies, governments are composed of a legislature, executive and judiciary. The distribution of powers among these institutions varies considerably, as does the number of these institutions. Some governments have a single institution that holds all of these functions, while others are organised into separate branches with distinct and overlapping responsibilities. The most basic of these institutions is the legislative branch, while others have a president or head of state and a treasury that is independent of the other branches.

Regardless of their differences, all governments exist to protect their populations from outside threats and to secure the right of individuals to choose their own lifestyles and aspirations without interference by other people. This protection, as well as the provision of public goods and services, requires a level of financial and military resources that is not available to private businesses alone. It is because of this that governments, as a collective group, are able to achieve the great things that have been accomplished by the human race over the centuries.

In the United States, government provides many valuable goods and services for its citizens at the federal, state, and local levels. Examples of these are national security, education, roads and bridges, public transportation, and mail service. Governments at all levels must be accountable to their constituents and be open about the processes and statistics that lead to governmental decisions and actions. This is a fundamental aspect of the democracy that has evolved over the centuries, and it was well summarized in Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address when he declared that “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”