Government is a system of people and laws that define and control a country, state or other political unit. It is responsible for setting and enforcing policy, protecting the nation, dealing with foreign affairs, running the economy and providing services like police and fire departments, schools and roads. While there are many different forms of government, they all share the same basic responsibilities.
The first function of government is to protect its citizens from violence and loss of property and personal freedom. This includes defending against attacks by foreign invaders, or criminals in the home. It also includes enforcing the law to punish those who break it.
Once a society is stable and secure, it can start to focus on the provision of goods and services for its citizens. Governments can take on this role in several ways, including through taxation and charging for specific services. Governments can also help create markets and promote economic growth. Governments can also provide essential services such as education, health and social care, military defense, public utilities and the protection of the environment.
In order to do these things, governments must be able to raise and spend money. The best way to do this is through a democratic process, where voters choose their own representatives to city councils, state legislatures and Congress. These bodies are responsible for making laws and drafting budgets that will determine how the money raised is spent. The money for these services comes from taxes, fees and other sources of revenue. Governments also work to make sure that the money they collect is spent wisely and efficiently.
Another important job of government is to protect common goods, or those goods that everyone can use, but that are in limited supply, such as fish in the sea or clean drinking water. Governments can also protect the rights of its citizens, by ensuring that they are free to express their views without fear of punishment or repression.
There are two main philosophical views on the purpose of government. One is that it should protect and provide for its citizens, while the other is that it should limit itself to those tasks that are necessarily incidental to this function. The latter view, however, can be dangerous to the liberties of a democracy. When the protector and provider functions of a government become too dominant, it can easily become an authoritarian regime, such as a totalitarian state or even an imperial dictatorship.
The modern classification of types of government includes democracies, totalitarian regimes and, sitting between these two extremes, authoritarian systems or oligarchies. Each of these has its own rules, customs and traditions, which are dictated by a number of factors, such as culture and history. However, all of them have the same underlying responsibilities: to set and enforce policy, defend the nation, manage the economy and provide services for its citizens. They also have the power to impose their will upon their citizens.