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What Is a Government?

A government is an organization through which a political unit exercises control and authority over the people. It is usually a group of officials, ministers or other agency invested with the power to manage and steer the affairs of a nation or State. Governments can be categorized according to their form and the way they exercise their functions, with the main types being democracies, totalitarian regimes and authoritarian systems such as monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy, tyranny or communism.

The goals of a government can vary, and a particular government will choose how to meet the needs of its citizens. It may decide to spend money on a wide range of services such as public education, public transportation, affordable housing and care for the elderly. It might also prefer to focus its efforts on one issue, such as eradicating socioeconomic inequality, or it may prioritize national security or individual liberty. Its choice of goals will determine the extent to which it can use taxes or other forms of revenue to pursue its goal, and how much discretion it has regarding how to allocate its resources.

As a rule, governmental bodies are not allowed to hide behind cloaks of secrecy when making decisions. Rather, the process must be transparent to allow for public input and discussion. This means that anyone interested in a specific decision should be given an opportunity to comment, and the draft decision should reflect these comments. This is the fundamental reason why the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) sets out the basic requirements that agencies must follow when creating rules. In addition, many statutes or executive orders require additional or different processes to be followed in certain situations.

In a democratic society, it is the right of the people to know how their tax dollars are being spent and what benefits they provide. They should also be able to access the documents and statistics that lead to governmental determinations. This is the fundamental principle behind the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In this way, government is truly the public’s business.

The size of a government affects its ability to function and make a difference in the lives of its citizens. A large government can be difficult to manage effectively, and can become a bureaucracy that is inefficient and slow to respond to changing circumstances. In addition, a large government can be expensive to operate. In the United States, Congress and the President set a government’s budget, and each department has its own Inspector General to oversee its work. These officers audit departments and report their findings to Congress, helping to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being well-spent. In addition, Congressional oversight committees can hold hearings and investigate issues. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was established in 1921 to perform these duties. Other independent organizations, such as the Foundation for American Progress and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, are dedicated to examining specific areas of government spending.