Government is the system of order for a nation, state or other political community. Its basic functions include providing leadership, maintaining law and order, and supplying services. Governments also provide security and economic assistance.
Government can be found at the local, regional, state, national or international level. Each level of government has its own unique form and structure. In the United States, for example, citizens vote to elect representatives to a city council or state legislature, who in turn, elect senators and representatives to make laws and to oversee the Federal Government. The Federal Government is organized into three different branches – the legislative (the Congress), the executive (the President) and the judicial (the Supreme Court). This division of power helps to ensure that no one person or group has too much power.
The word government comes from the Latin locution gubernare, which means to steer or manage a ship or vessel. People have recognized the need to organize society in some way since early times and government has served as a mechanism for this organization. Government has become the dominant form of social organization in the world today.
Politics is the process by which people choose what values and policies government should support. This includes choosing how resources should be distributed and what economic and social policies to pursue. The nature of political systems is highly complex, and the boundaries between types of government are often fluid or ill-defined.
Governments have a variety of purposes including regulating trade, protecting property rights and raising money to pay for services. The most common way that governments raise funds is through taxes on income, property and sales. This money is then used to pay for things such as schools, police and fire departments, and parks. Governments can also regulate the amount of goods that people can buy and sell and how much they can charge for them.
The earliest forms of government were tribal and clan-based, but as civilization developed, the need to assert control over large distances and to collect taxes prompted the development of formal bureaucracy. Over time, bureaucracy grew to encompass all aspects of a state and to be run by professional administrators rather than by tribal chiefs or monarchs. The need to assemble larger armies and gather taxes fostered literacy and numeracy, and this facilitated the rise of the modern state. The state is usually regarded as the cradle of Western civilisation. There are various theories about the origin of the state. These include evolutionary theory, the force theory and the theory that the state evolved from the family. All of these theories have some merit, but it is clear that the modern state has grown to its current size and complexity through the exercise of political power. The modern state combines elements of the traditional state and a range of other modern institutions such as the market, the media and the scientific method. This combination of features gives the modern state a very unique character that sets it apart from other forms of human society.