Government is a system by which people organize themselves to accomplish collective goals and provide benefits that the society as a whole needs. The type of government a country has may differ, but common objectives include economic prosperity for the nation, secure borders and safety and security for its citizens. Governments also help provide education, health care and an infrastructure for transportation.
In the United States, for example, people elect representatives to their city councils, state legislatures and Congress who make laws governing their respective jurisdictions. They also levy taxes and draft budgets to determine how the funds they raise will be spent on services for their constituents. On the local level, money is allotted for things like police and fire departments, maintenance of roads and bridges and wildlife management. On the national level, the funds are used for things like defense, Social Security and pensions for veterans. Government agencies, such as the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service, receive these funds and use them to deliver services.
Governments are often seen as either a friend or a foe of business, depending on whether they create or enforce consumer-protection and worker-safety laws. In addition, they often provide businesses with financial, advisory and other services.
Most countries have some sort of centralized form of government, including a legislative branch and a judicial branch. The legislative branch is made up of elected representatives who make laws, while the judicial branch is made up of judges who review and decide cases. A country may also have a military branch to protect it from outside threats and to engage in foreign policy.
Some countries have one leader who is called the head of state or prime minister and has advisors and ministers for various departments. This group is referred to as the administration. Some countries have leaders who are kings or queens and have hereditary royalty. The kings are called monarchs and their families are known as the royal family.
The most common political systems today are democracies and totalitarian regimes, but many other types have been historically prevalent, such as aristocracy, oligarchy and tyranny. There are also hybrid forms of these main types of government.
In general, people prefer a democratic government with the following characteristics: Majority rule that respects minority rights. Accountability of the government’s officials and checks and balances. A free press and a bill of rights that protects individuals’ freedoms.
Most governments collect revenue to pay for the goods and services they provide. Some are funded by a combination of taxes and fees, while others are supported by earmarked revenues from specific sources that have to be carefully balanced against the potential for diversion of traditional revenue sources. Earmarked revenue sources can be controversial because of the perception that they increase political influence or reward particular groups or interests. The drafting of budgets must include an objective assessment of the costs and benefits associated with expenditure policy choices.