Government is the system of order for a nation, state or another political unit. The duties of all governments are similar, including creating and enforcing the rules of society, protecting citizens from external threats, managing the economy, and providing public services like education and healthcare. However, the way these responsibilities are executed varies depending on the type of government. Different forms of government include a direct democracy, a representative democracy, socialism, communism, a monarchy, an oligarchy, and an autocracy.
Some forms of government are based on the concept that the existence of government is a necessary evil to address collective needs that individuals cannot meet by themselves, such as defense against crime, poverty, and illiteracy. In this view, people willingly give up some freedom in exchange for these benefits, and the legitimacy of the government is derived from this “social contract.”
Other philosophies of government are opposed to its existence, or believe that it should be limited in scope, such as anarchism or Marxism. Still others, such as conservatism, libertarianism, and various forms of right-wing extremism, see governments as positive forces that bring order out of chaos, establish laws to end the “war of all against all,” encourage moral virtue while punishing vice, and respect tradition.
Most of the world’s population lives in countries with some form of government. Most of these nations have constitutions and laws that guarantee their citizens rights, such as free speech, freedom of the press, and the ability to vote in elections. Governments also protect their citizens from internal threats like war, famine, and disease. They also regulate the economy to ensure that goods and services are not damaging the environment or causing other people harm. They are also responsible for taking care of the bigger things that are too difficult or expensive for individual households to handle on their own, such as paved roads, electricity, and police services.
While the role of government has evolved over time, it remains essential for society as a whole. In addition to making and enforcing laws, a well-functioning government is responsible for providing the basic necessities of life, such as food, water, shelter, and education. Governments should also promote the welfare of their citizens by ensuring that these necessities are affordable and accessible to all, as well as encouraging and supporting participation in civic life and the economy. In this role, a government should provide goods and services that are “non-excludable,” meaning that no one can be prevented from using them, and “non-rivaling,” or that there is no trade-off for more users of the service. Governments should also provide infrastructure and education to support economic growth. These are known as “public goods.” Governments that fail to fulfill their roles may lose public support, and can even collapse.