The Basics of Government

Government is a system that organizes a country’s laws, people and resources. It provides stability and security through a military, fire departments, and mail service. It also provides valuable public goods like education and health care. In addition, it can provide jobs and opportunities for citizens in the form of federal, state and local government positions.

Governments have existed in different forms for thousands of years. Although they have many similarities, they do not all look or function the same. Some have democratic structures, where citizens make decisions through representatives they elect. Others have authoritarian models, where the leader and his or her political party are dominant. Still others combine democratic and authoritarian features to create a hybrid model.

Regardless of their differences, all governments must be able to collect taxes and allocate funds to meet the needs of the citizens. To do this, they must have a clear set of laws that establish their jurisdictions and the rules for enforcing those laws. These laws are often referred to as the Constitution or Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Governments may also have a legislative body (the Congress) and an executive branch (president), as well as courts to decide legal disputes.

The most common type of government is a democracy, where citizens are elected to represent them and their interests in the national legislature. These representatives are members of a political party, a group of people with similar ideas and philosophies about the role of government. People who belong to the same political party are grouped together into regional groups, called constituencies. Each region is represented by one or more members of the Congress, who are referred to as senators or representatives.

Another aspect of a government is the way it spends its money. There are two primary categories of government spending: mandatory and discretionary. Mandatory spending includes Social Security, Medicare and defense spending. Congress must pass an annual appropriations law to fund these programs. Discretionary spending includes things like disaster relief and stimulus funds. These are used to help people who have lost their jobs or have been displaced by natural disasters or other emergencies.

Many government jobs have greater job security than private-sector jobs because of the nature of the work. They also tend to have consistent schedules. Government workers also receive benefits like health care insurance, which is not available to many employees in the private sector.

While businesses frequently complain about the burden of government regulation, proponents argue that the rules are necessary to protect consumers from exploitation by firms that seek profit at any cost. Moreover, the rules prevent businesses from damaging the environment and stealing consumer information. To illustrate this concept, use the Levels of Government Ladder handout.