Government is the organization through which a political unit (national, state, or local) exercises authority and sets rules. Often it has the ability to enforce these rules with the force of law. Governments exist at the national, state, and local level and in many cases provide valuable services for their citizens that the private sector either cannot or will not offer. These include public education, fire and police departments, mail service, and food, housing, and medical care for the poor.
Historically, governments have evolved as people recognized the need to govern themselves and protect their property from outside threats. They began to organize themselves into societies, communities, and later states, with one person or group in charge who would be the guardian of the common interests of the community. This recognition is the origin of the concept of sovereignty, the right of a State to govern itself without interference from other States or groups.
The term government derives from the Latin word gubernare, which means to steer a ship/vessel. Today, the world has many different types of government, from totalitarian regimes to democracies, and in between, oligarchies, aristocracies, and timocracies. Each has its own form of power-sharing, and there are many variations within these philosophies.
Most nations have a Constitution that defines the structure, mission, and powers of their government. This document usually includes specific details of how the State will be run, including a description of the political system. Governments are typically divided into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative branch is responsible for passing laws, and the executive branch is in charge of implementing those laws. The judicial branch is in charge of reviewing the legality of decisions made by other branches of the government, and is also involved in enforcing the law.
The vast majority of Americans agree that the role of government should be to protect their nation and ensure its citizens’ safety and wellbeing. But they are divided over whether or not their government is doing a good job of these tasks.
Six in ten say the federal government should have a major role in setting fair and safe workplace standards, but only half of these same Americans think the federal government is doing a good job of this.
The judicial branch of the government, on the other hand, does a relatively good job of enforcing the laws passed by Congress. This is in part because of the Constitution’s separation of powers and checks and balances, which make it difficult for the executive branch to overrule the judiciary or Congress. The judicial branch also does a good job of protecting the rights of individual citizens, such as by preventing racial discrimination.