Government is a system of rules that adults make and then enforce. It protects people and their property. It helps them live together peacefully and provides a structure for goods and services to be available to everyone. There are many different types of government. Each has its own set of rules that determines how it works.
People who decide to form a government may choose whether to have one person (an autocracy), a group of people with special skills (an aristocracy), or all the people as a whole (a democracy). Governments also have different ways of making laws and allocating resources. In the United States, we have a three-branch federal government that includes legislative (Congress, the Senate, and the House of Representatives), executive (the President and his Cabinet), and judicial (the Supreme Court and lower courts).
The framers who designed our Constitution understood that too much power in the hands of any branch of government would lead to big problems. So they created a system of checks and balances, where each branch could change or even overturn acts that the other two branches put into action. This way, if a branch made a law that citizens objected to, they could work to persuade the other branches to veto it.
To raise money to pay for all the things that governments do, they tax people. These taxes can be on income, property, or sales. Local, state, and national governments then use the money to provide services for their residents, such as education, police and fire departments, and maintenance of roads and parks.
Most governments around the world have rules that limit how much people can take of a resource that others need as well, such as fish in the sea or clean water. Some resources are called common goods, meaning that all people may use them free of charge. Other resources are private, such as land and buildings that belong to someone else. Governments can protect private goods, too, by putting restrictions on what people can do with them.
While the purpose of government varies from country to country, in most countries it serves at least two purposes: protecting people and providing a structure by which people can share the wealth. Some governments, like the United States, support ideals such as egalitarianism and destruction of socioeconomic inequalities, while others focus on national security, individual liberty, and balancing tradeoffs between those two goals.
A common feature of all governments is the need to collect and distribute funds from its citizens. This is typically done through a tax, but some governments also use other means to gather money from their citizens, such as fees for licenses and permits. Governments also spend money on a variety of things that help citizens live their lives, such as police and fire departments, libraries, and national parks. Six in seven households receive some type of government assistance. This aid may be a cash benefit, such as welfare or unemployment benefits, or it might be free or reduced-cost services, such as education, healthcare, and public transportation.