Government is the way adults decide the rules for everyone to follow. It makes the rules, makes sure those rules are followed and judges any conflicts between the rules. In the United States, the government is made up of three branches: the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch and the Judicial Branch. The Legislative Branch makes the laws, the Executive Branch carries out those laws and the Judicial Branch makes sure those laws are being followed correctly.
The founding fathers designed the Constitution to make sure our government worked well. They knew that if any one branch got too powerful, it could cause big problems. So they created rules that let each branch check on the other two branches to make sure they didn’t get out of control. This is called the system of checks and balances.
Each branch has its own job, but they all work together to do the same thing: set the rules for our country and make sure they are being followed. For example, the legislative branch consists of Congress and the Senate. Congress makes the laws and the Senate approves those laws before they become law. The Executive Branch enforces those laws and the President is our head of state, so when he talks with leaders from other countries, he represents all of America.
Government can also set rules for other things, like property rights or standards for weights and measures. These are called “market institutions.” They provide the incentives for people to produce and exchange goods and services. They also allow people to share in the benefits and costs of those activities. Governments can also help regulate the market by ensuring that people follow the rules, by setting and enforcing property rights and by making sure that contracts are honored.
Most Americans have more frequent contact with State and local governments than with the Federal government. They run the police departments, schools and libraries that we use every day. They may even issue your driver’s license or give you a parking ticket. Most State governments have their own written constitutions, which are usually much longer than the Federal Constitution.
Modern classification systems distinguish between democracies, totalitarian regimes and a range of hybrid systems. They don’t necessarily exclude monarchies, which have a long history as a prominent form of government.
In our surveys, most Americans say that the Federal government does a good job of keeping us safe from terrorist attacks and natural disasters and helping people get out of poverty. But they are critical of the government’s performance on some other issues, especially governing immigration and ensuring safe food and medicine. Overall, most people in the United States want the Government to do more than it does now. That’s why it’s important to understand how the Federal Government works, so you can make informed decisions about whether more Federal government is a good idea for your community.