A government is the set of rules and people that define and control a country. It is also the system of institutions that provide public goods and services like schools, police and fire departments, roads, hospitals, and armed forces. Governments may be national, regional or local. They may be based on democratic rule or some other principle such as monarchy, autocracy, oligarchy, and socialism. A government can be as small as a city council or as large as the United States.

The ancient Greek writers Plato and Aristotle theorized much about the nature and function of government. In their view, governments should serve the common good and protect citizens from harm. They should have a limited number of leaders, but many servants to carry out the people’s business. They should promote peace and stability, and ensure people have access to the necessities of life including food, shelter, water, education, health care, and a fair chance to prosper. Governments should also regulate the use of natural resources and protect against wars.

There are many ways in which governments can be organized, but all of them have the same essential role of regulating what happens to citizens and protecting them from harm. The size and structure of a government vary, but it always includes a president or other chief executive, a legislative branch (houses of parliament), a judicial branch, an armed force, and civil service.

Governments make laws and collect taxes to raise money to pay for goods and services. They can also make policies and decisions that affect citizens in a wide range of ways, from the way they educate children to how they manage wildlife. The type of government you live under determines how your personal life is regulated, and the decisions that are made about issues like climate change, terrorism, or pandemics.

Governments are often formed by an agreement among the people in a region to share power and responsibility, usually by electing representatives or delegates to form a participatory governing body. Governments may be direct or indirect democracies. Direct democracies give the people a say in every decision. In indirect democracies, the citizenry chooses select citizens to represent them by election or, less commonly, by sortition. They then participate in a deliberative process and vote on all issues. In the United States, a bill becomes law after passing both houses of Congress and being signed by the president. Throughout the process, each branch of government has checks and balances with the other branches. If a law is unpopular, citizens can try to persuade their elected officials to change or repeal it. For example, if Congress passes a law that the president opposes, she can work to persuade Congress to override her veto. Learn more about how laws are created.

By mei0123