Government is the institution that makes laws and rules, collects taxes, prints money, regulates business, and provides a police force to enforce those laws. It also carries out the collective goals of society and provides citizens with a variety of benefits that they cannot obtain on their own, such as education, health care, public transportation, and security against crime. The type of benefits provided by a government are determined in part by the political process and the input of citizens. Governments around the world vary widely in their methods, but they all seek to accomplish the same basic goals: economic prosperity, secure national borders, and the safety and well-being of citizens.
The word government comes from the Latin verb gubernare, meaning “steer a ship/vessel.” It refers to an active agency invested with the power to manage a political unit, organization or, more often, a State. The governing body can be elected or appointed by the people, and it may be a monarchy, an oligarchy, a democracy (direct or representative), or an autocracy.
Most places in the world are ruled by governments. The only exceptions are small, isolated areas where traditions are followed rather than governmental law and Antarctica, which is almost entirely uninhabited. In the case of a nation, government is comprised of city councils, state legislatures and Congress, along with the president and various cabinet members.
Depending on the philosophy of government, these agencies are either designed to serve the interests of the many at the expense of the few or to protect the rights of individuals against the abuses of the powerful. In a democratic republic, for example, legislators are elected and must agree to pass laws that benefit the majority of the citizenry. Governments are also expected to regulate business and penalize industries that pollute the air or water.
In addition, they establish budgets and determine how the money collected by taxes is to be used. For example, in the United States, Congress sets an annual budget and levies taxes to pay for services such as education, fire and police departments, and roads. Congress can also authorize borrowing to make up the difference if it is unable to raise enough revenue through taxation.
Most governmental systems today are democracies, although they can take different forms. There are many types of democracies, including direct and indirect democracy, autocracy, socialism, and communism. While most contemporary political philosophers agree that the powers of government should be limited, there is considerable disagreement on exactly how limited they should be and how those limits should be applied. The concept of government evolves with the changing needs of a society. For example, during times of economic crisis, governments have stepped in to rescue banks and companies. They have also created social programs to provide food for the poor and shelter for homeless people. Governments are also responsible for providing an educational system and a means for citizens to participate in politics and make their voices heard.