The government is the body that makes and enforces the laws of a nation, state, or other political unit. It also provides public services, such as schools, law enforcement, hospitals, and libraries. Governments are usually organized into separate institutions with different powers, functions, and duties, and they may differ greatly in the number of those institutions. Governments are typically based on certain political ideologies. These ideologies shape the way government is run and what services it offers.
The most basic function of a government is to create and enforce the rules that govern people within a society. These rules can be religious, cultural, or social. Governments can also regulate access to common goods like natural resources, such as water, oil, and wildlife, so that people cannot take too much without causing a shortage.
Another role of a government is to provide security. This can include guarding borders, patrolling streets, and providing emergency response services. It can also include protecting people and property from crime and ensuring that businesses operate fairly in the marketplace. Governments can also promote prosperity by raising taxes and spending money on things such as infrastructure projects.
Governments can help citizens by regulating the flow of money in their economy, providing education, and helping individuals find employment. They can also help citizens by ensuring that the environment is protected and providing health care services. Governments can also promote democracy by allowing voters to choose their own leaders and ensure that everyone’s opinions are heard. Governments can also protect citizens by limiting the amount of toxic gases that can be released into the air and ensuring that food, toys, and automobiles are safe to use.
People often form governments to achieve specific political goals. For example, they might form a government to secure their safety or that of their families and communities, or they might form a government in order to get the benefits of modern technology. Some of these governments are formed around particular socio-economic movements, such as liberalism or fascism. Others are established by military conquest or the idea of divine right.
People’s attitudes about what the role of government should be have changed over time, and partisanship continues to be a strong factor in those views. For example, large majorities of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say that the government does a good job of keeping the country safe from terrorism, responding to natural disasters, and strengthening the economy. But far fewer of them rate the government highly for its performance on other issues, including assisting people out of poverty and managing immigration. And white adults are much more likely than black or Hispanic adults to favor a smaller government that provides fewer services.