A government is a group of people who have the power to rule over an organized community. Governments make laws, enforce them, and provide services for their citizens. They also protect a nation from threats from outside and within. There are many different types of governments, but they all share certain characteristics.
A fundamental purpose of all forms of government is to protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens. This is especially important in a democratic society, where the government is representative of the citizenry as a whole. A government that violates the rights and liberties of its citizens can be considered tyranny. Governments can protect their citizens by ensuring that all people have access to goods and services, by providing a safety net for those who need it, and by making sure that no one is left out of the political process.
Regardless of the type of government, all of these things require a large investment of money and effort on the part of the government. Often, governments will tax its citizens to raise funds. This can be done on a local, state, or national level. The money raised by taxes is used to fund a variety of government activities. At the local level, this may include funding for police and fire departments, schools, and roads. At the state level, it may be funding for state colleges and universities or water and waste management. At the federal level, it may be funding for national parks or military service.
Another very important job of any government is to protect common goods that are not easily or cheaply replicated in the marketplace. Examples of common goods are air and water, public lands, and wildlife. Private businesses cannot protect these goods on their own because there is no profit incentive to do so. Governments can protect these goods by regulating use to ensure that a few people do not take all the available resources and leave others with nothing.
Governments typically organize themselves into separate institutions, called branches, with a specific distribution of powers, functions, duties, and responsibilities. This distribution of powers is known as separation of powers or the division of powers. In most governmental systems, these different institutions are governed by a single person or by a body of elected or appointed officials.
The Founders of the United States created a system of three levels of government, national, state and local, to promote and safeguard this concept of limited government. These three governmental levels are sometimes illustrated by using the concept of a ladder. The national level is at the top of the ladder, followed by the state and then the local level. Each rung of the ladder represents a lesser amount of power and authority. This concept of the three tiers of government is designed to ensure that each rung cannot pass laws that conflict with the decisions/laws made by the level above it.