Government is the system of people and laws that define and control a country. Its primary function is to provide public goods (like roads and schools). A government can also regulate private life by creating and enforcing laws. Governments need money to operate, so they generally collect taxes from citizens. Governments also have other sources of revenue, such as fines and fees for violating laws.
The different types of governments differ in how much power they have and who rules them. Some are limited and constitutional, while others are authoritarian and have no constitution. There are also different types of systems for distributing power among the institutions that make up the government, such as federalism.
The most basic definition of government is a set of rules that constrain human behavior in some way to help achieve a mutually positive collective outcome. These constraints can be legal or social.
Governments can take many forms, from monarchies to dictatorships to democratic republics. They can be organized into one or more branches, which have distinct powers, functions and duties. The distribution of these responsibilities between the branches is often referred to as the separation of powers or check and balances. The number of branches may vary, but the most common is three: the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch.
In a constitutional democracy, the government is limited in what it can do by a written or unwritten constitution that describes its basic principles. This allows for citizens to have some influence over the rules and decision-making. A constitutional democracy is a form of government that is democratic and respects its citizen’s freedoms, rights and liberties.
A democratic republic is a government that complies with the principles of a constitutional democracy. In a democratic republic, the people rule through free and fair elections. The people have the right to change their leaders through regular elections and to participate in decision-making in all areas of government, including policy, legislation, and war. The government must respect the rights of minorities and women, and provide equal opportunity to all citizens.
The judicial branch reviews laws passed by the other two branches and decides whether they are in line with the Constitution. This branch includes the Supreme Court, federal courts and agencies, and independent agencies and boards. American citizens vote for Senators and Representatives through free, confidential ballots. The President and Vice President are the heads of the executive branch, which carries out and enforces laws. They also have the power to veto any bill or law that Congress passes.
Some philosophers have offered different theories about why humans need governments. Thomas Hobbes suggested that without some form of order, humans would become violent and revert to nature. John Locke and Jean Jacques-Rousseau both believed that human beings have natural rights, which include the right to property and freedom of speech and religion. They also argued that it was necessary to divide the power of a government into separate branches, such as Congress and the President, to prevent any single branch from becoming too powerful.