The Basics of Government


Government is the body that governs a country or State. Each country and State have their own rules regarding the formation, missions and powers of a government.

Most governments provide citizens with stability, goods and services, and a means to express their opinions and concerns to those in power. Most Western democracies, for example, protect freedom of speech and the press and allow citizens to vote in elections for those who represent them in government. Governments also create a framework by which economic activity can be organized, through taxes on income and property and government-sponsored companies that operate schools, hospitals and other public services.

When government entities spend more than they take in, they must borrow money to cover their deficits. One way to do this is by selling securities, such as bonds, to the public. A bond is basically an IOU that a government body writes to someone, promising to pay them back in the future for the amount they originally paid for it plus interest.

The term government comes from the Latin “gubernare,” meaning to steer or guide a ship or vessel. In modern political science, governments are often classified according to whether they are ruled by one person (an autocracy), a small group of people (an oligarchy) or the people as a whole (a democracy). However, these categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and many governments are hybrid systems of multiple types of government.

Despite their differences on other issues, Democrats and Republicans share common ground on the role that government should play in society. For example, majorities of both groups say that the government should provide a significant amount of funding for national defense, social security, Medicare and public parks.

Governments are also charged with the responsibility of developing and implementing policy, and for drafting laws. In the United States, the President appoints Cabinet members and heads of executive departments; Congress passes bills to fund the government; and a Supreme Court evaluates laws and interprets the Constitution.

There are some fundamental principles that all governments should embody:

Rule by the majority with the protection of minority rights

Limited government and a Bill of Rights: Government officials must be accountable for their actions. A system of checks and balances must be established to limit the power of government and ensure that citizens’ rights are protected.

A government’s primary role is to protect its citizens from external threats and internal disorder. Governments can do this by providing a stable economic climate, maintaining law and order and providing basic services like education, healthcare and water supply. Governments can also protect citizens by providing a legal system that can resolve disputes and by enforcing intellectual property rights. Governments also provide a safety net to help those in need, including the poor, sick and disabled. Governments should also protect the natural environment by protecting natural resources, preserving wildlife and regulating the use of land and waters. This is the purpose of a national parks service, for example, which provides opportunities for recreation and conservation in pristine areas.