What Does a Government Do?


A government is the body, entity or people invested with power to manage a political unit, organization or more often a State. The word “government” is derived from the Latin locution gubernare (to steer). Governments can function at the federal, state and local level. They are responsible for providing stability and security in the form of a military, police and fire departments as well as public goods such as education, housing, food, and healthcare. Governments raise funds for their efforts by charging taxes, fees and by selling bonds. When these methods are not sufficient to cover their desired expenditures, governments also borrow money.

Governments must decide what values they want to promote and support and the policies they will implement to achieve those goals. For instance, if they prioritize egalitarianism, then they may increase the tax burden on the rich in order to spend more on public education, public transportation and food for the poor. If national security is a priority, then the government may authorize the tapping of citizens’ phones and restrict what newspapers can publish.

The government must also manage negative externalities, or the unintended consequences of certain economic activities. For example, when individuals waste water or fossil fuels, the environment is negatively affected, because other people must then supply them with those resources. To avoid these negative externalities, governments must construct regulations that manage how industries operate.

Another government function is to regulate how businesses treat their customers and employees. In the United States, capitalism has created an obsession with profit amongst many industries, and they will go to great lengths to ensure that they receive a sizable profit. However, this can be very psychologically harmful to customers and employees alike, and the government should construct regulations that limit this damage.

It is important that the government protect the environment, as its destruction will directly impact all humans and animals. For example, the pollution from vehicles is a serious issue, as it releases toxic chemicals into the air. The government can help by imposing emissions standards on cars and by encouraging people to walk or ride bicycles instead of driving.

Individuals can also help by reducing their electricity usage, and by avoiding meat consumption, as animal husbandry is one of the major causes of greenhouse gas emissions. They can also recycle their waste and use energy-efficient light bulbs. Lastly, they can encourage their communities to do the same. It is not a difficult thing to do, and it will have a positive effect on the environment.