What Is Government?


Government refers to the system by which people exercise control over a territory, whether a nation or state or a smaller region. Government also includes the administration and direction of that territory’s affairs, including its citizens, laws and rules.

Governments are a necessity for the existence of civilized societies and they come in a wide variety of forms. There are two main types of modern political systems – democracies and totalitarian regimes, with a number of hybrid regimes occupying the space between these extremes. Governments can be classified according to the number of people who have power to make decisions – either one person (an autocracy, such as a monarchy), a small group of individuals (an oligarchy) or the whole population (a democracy). They can also be defined by what kind of authority they have over the lives of their citizens – a constitutional republic is the most transparent type of government and has clear boundaries between the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

The most basic justification for the existence of government is its protection role: it provides law and order and protects people from violence by other citizens or foreign foes. It is a very powerful justification, and it is evident globally in war zones and countries with little or no government.

Besides the protection role, governments also provide social services, such as free public education and police services, as well as a variety of infrastructures that allow for transportation and communication. They regulate access to common goods such as clean air and water, protecting people from the “free-rider” problem – where a few people take everything while leaving others with nothing. They also play a significant role in international trade, setting rules and tariffs that ensure fair competition for businesses and help to promote global exchanges.

In addition to these functions, governments are tasked with upholding the values of the country and its people. They can do this in a number of ways, from regulating what types of publications or media can be published to how far law enforcement agencies can spy on private communications. Their values are often reflected in the laws they create, with the most well-known examples being equal rights for women and gay men and prohibitions on hate speech or the death penalty.

Lastly, governments are responsible for the management of international relations and diplomacy. They communicate with other countries’ governments and try to solve problems or disagreements, which can be a good thing for businesses or can even prevent war. They are also in charge of national defence, which can include the use of military forces such as the UK Armed Forces to protect the country from terrorist attacks and other major threats to its security. They can also establish and maintain international agreements, such as the ones that support free trade between nations. They can also manage domestic or internal finances, regulating commerce, establishing standards of weights and measures and coining money.