Government is the means by which a society organizes its power to accomplish goals and provide benefits that cannot be accomplished by individuals alone. Governments are found at every level of human existence, from the smallest local city council to the federal Congress. Governments around the world serve many purposes, but their most important is ensuring that those who live in a particular community enjoy the same rights and freedoms, regardless of wealth or status. This purpose is best served by a system of checks and balances. Governments must be small enough to be effective, yet large enough to meet the needs of the population being served.
In the United States, the framers of our Constitution designed a system of three branches: the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. They did so because history taught them that if any one branch becomes too powerful, the whole tree suffers. To keep this from happening, the framers set up a structure of checks and balances that gives each branch limited powers.
To raise money for the services they offer, the legislative branch imposes taxes on individuals and businesses. They also draft budgets and determine how funds will be allocated for each service. If revenue levels are low, they can also borrow money to fund projects. The judicial branch enforces laws and judges disputes between citizens. Municipal courts hear cases for low-level violations, while higher-level district and circuit courts handle more serious matters.
A government’s main role is to defend its citizens against dangers that they cannot defend themselves from, including foreign despotism and domestic criminals. Its secondary role is to protect the individual rights of its citizens, which includes protection against losing life or property and protection against a loss of freedom.
While most people agree that a country should have a military to defend itself from external threats, many people disagree on how this or any other form of government should be used in the pursuit of these goals. Some people believe that a government should use its force to help those who need it, while others believe that helping the poor and downtrodden is better served by the invisible hand of the free market, without intervention from government officials.
Those who oppose government’s role as protector of the poor and downtrodden often argue that the problem is too big to be solved by a single institution. But this argument misses the point of government’s role in a free society. Government is not a solution to any problem, but a tool that can be used to solve specific problems.
If a government is to be successful, its officials must have the courage of their convictions and be willing to fight for what they think is right. Too many politicians focus on getting elected and on pleasing their constituents, but a true statesman seeks principles above popularity. This is why America needs a new generation of leaders who understand the proper role of government and will work to make it a reality.