What Is Government?


Government is the system of people who rule over a territory. This territory may be a city, county, state or country, or it could be part of a larger region or continent. Governments have many duties, but most importantly they make laws, rules and regulations that protect their citizens. They also collect taxes and print money. They have a monopoly on the legal use of force and they provide police forces to ensure that people obey the laws. Governments have many structures by which they carry out these functions, and the type of government is a function of political philosophy, history and social conditions.

Different types of governments vary according to whether they are run by one person (an autocracy, such as a monarchy), a chosen few people (an aristocracy) or the whole population (a democracy). Governments are also classified by the way they make decisions. Some governments, such as the United States, have three branches—legislative, executive and judiciary. These separate and check each other to limit power and prevent corruption.

The legislative branch of a government, called Congress, passes bills that the executive branch must implement. These laws, or legislation, cover everything from taxes to healthcare and the environment. A bill can only become law when it is passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by the President. If the President vetoes the legislation, the bill can be overridden by two-thirds of both House and Senate members who agree to do so.

Another important job of the executive branch is to deal with foreign affairs. This requires raising large armies, gathering taxes to pay them and preparing plans for attack and defense. Governments also appoint the heads of many departments and offices to manage the economy, education, the military and other aspects of life in a nation. These officials form a group known as the cabinet.

The executive branch also deals with issues that are not a matter of opinion, such as natural resources or national security. Governments can also compel people to comply with their laws, by using the armed forces or taxing them for their services. For example, the government can require all citizens to enlist in the military or pay taxes for public schools, mail carriers and firefighters. Governments can provide these things in a much more comprehensive way than private businesses can because they can draw upon the whole nation’s resources and compel citizen compliance. For this reason, they are essential to the existence of civilized society. Private businesses cannot afford to build the large army and infrastructure necessary to defend a nation against barbarian challenge. Only a government can raise the money and build the infrastructure to protect a civilization. This is why the most advanced nations today have government. The simplest nations are probably still tribal, though.