A government is the people, laws, and officials that define a country and oversee its citizens’ interaction with one another. While governments are usually concerned with public life, their rules and regulations often impact what happens in private lives as well. A government may be centralized, decentralized, or a mixture of both, and it is typically structured around three parts: legislative, executive, and judiciary.
The government of the United States, for example, is a federal system, meaning that power is divided between the national (federal) and local (state) levels. At the state level, legislators make laws on such issues as education, transportation, crime, and wildlife management. They also draft budgets to determine how to spend the money they collect from taxes and tariffs. They are responsible for ensuring that the rights of all citizens are respected, and that the Constitution is followed by federal agencies.
In a democracy, the people elect representatives to serve on city councils, state legislatures, and Congress. These elected officials make laws to govern their regions, and they create budgets based on the needs of their constituents. They raise money by imposing taxes on things such as income, property, and sales. They then allocate funds to things such as police departments, schools, and infrastructure maintenance. If enough money is not collected, a government can borrow money to cover its expenses. They may also mandate specific spending, or “earmarks,” such as funds for a highway project.
Government is also responsible for protecting common goods, or those items that everyone can use without charge but are limited in supply. For example, the government protects natural resources such as clean water and fish in the sea, and it ensures that there is enough food to go around. It is impossible for private business to provide these goods; they would have to charge a high price to be profitable, which would drive up the cost of the good and leave many poorer.
In addition to the important tasks of providing stability and providing goods and services, a government has a fundamental responsibility to protect its citizens from violence and tyranny. The founders of our nation built a constitutional system to ensure that the government was limited in its authority and that all citizens enjoyed the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. These freedoms include the right to privacy, which means that the government should not listen in on private conversations or restrict what newspapers can publish. The people have the right to know how their government makes decisions and to review the documents and statistics that lead to these determinations. Government is the public’s business, and it should be accessible to all. This principle is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution. The people have a right to know how their money is spent, and the process by which the government decides its policies. Attempting to thwart this right by hiding information from the people and denying them the right of access is unconstitutional.