What Is Government?

Government is the organization of people that sets and enforces policy for an organized community, usually a nation. Government includes the enforcing of laws and the development of a system of rules and principles that govern matters which cannot be managed through private enterprise, such as national defense, education, health care, and natural resources. Government also performs the vital function of protecting common goods — things that all people may use free of charge but which are in limited supply, such as fish in the sea and clean drinking water — so that some people do not take everything that is available and leave others with nothing.

Governments vary widely in size and structure, reflecting the unique environment, history, political philosophy, economic organization, and cultural influences of each country. The term government is sometimes used to refer to a particular country’s executive branch, especially in parliamentary systems where the Prime Minister heads the Government. The Government is responsible for putting government policy into practice, and the Government department and their agencies are the means by which it puts this policy into action.

At a more practical level, governments provide a framework within which citizens may make their needs and opinions known to public officials, which is essential in any system of democratic governance. Without this structure, political life would be chaotic and the needs of the people might go unmet.

Government also provides the funds necessary to pay for such services as free public education, police and fire protection, and mail delivery. Government agencies at the local, state, and national levels allocate money to projects and programs that they think will benefit their constituents most. Governments also have the power to levy taxes and borrow funds in order to finance their activities.

It is important for the Government to maintain a balance between its regulatory and collaborative functions with businesses. Businesses need to be able to operate freely and make profit, but they must do so within the confines of laws that protect consumers, workers, and the environment. The Government can help to prevent business abuses by creating and enforcing consumer-protection, worker-safety, and other laws, but the Government also has a role to play in providing financial, advisory, and other support for businesses.

Governments should provide access to the information, documents, and statistics that lead to government decisions. This is the right of all citizens and a core element of the principles of a democracy. Governments should not attempt to thwart citizen rights through secrecy, as this violates the fundamental principles of freedom and justice.