Government is a system of people, laws, and officials that define the country that you live in. It establishes and enforces the rules that determine what happens in public life, although many of those same laws regulate what happens in private life, too. Governments come in different forms, but all have three branches: legislative, executive and judicial. The type of government that you have depends on the political philosophy behind it. Some governments are democratic; others are authoritarian. Aristotle discussed five different types of government: one led by a single person (autocracy), by a select group (an aristocracy), by the majority of the people (democracy) or by a representative body, such as a parliament or Congress (a republic).
The main job of a government is to make and enforce the rules that define a society. It also provides a structure by which goods and services can be made available to the citizens. Governments are often formed as a result of social movements and have competing ideologies that can influence their policies and procedures.
For example, a government that is committed to the ideals of egalitarianism may promote tax breaks for the poor and may establish programs for housing, education, and health care. It also might impose taxes, which are the main source of revenue, to provide funds for these activities. Another important function of government is the provision of security, both at the local and national level. This includes police departments and fire departments, postal service, and a military defense force. Governments also protect common goods, which are resources that everyone can use but have limited supply (such as fish in the sea and clean water).
Whether or not a government has a particular philosophy or political ideology, most have certain values that they consider to be important, such as freedom of speech and press, equality among all people, and limiting the power of elected or appointed officials. These principles are called checks and balances. A free society is maintained when these checks and balances are in place, so that a government does not abuse its authority.
In addition, a democracy supports a free market, which encourages the growth of businesses and the development of a variety of goods and services for consumers to choose from. Governments can make sure that this occurs by regulating the amount of taxes that businesses must pay and setting minimum wages for workers. Governments also help maintain a healthy environment by regulating pollution and other environmental issues. Finally, a government should be transparent, so that the citizens are aware of what it is doing and can hold it accountable. This is known as open government. Governments can do this by making public records available, and they can also limit access to private information for security reasons. For example, a government may make public arrest or booking photographs of people but delete identifying details. This helps to prevent unwarranted invasions of privacy. It also allows for more participation by citizens in government, and it is easier for them to communicate with the government about issues that affect them.