The Basic Functions of Government


A government is a system by which people organize and allocate power to accomplish goals, such as protecting the country against attack or providing education. Often, government also regulates access to public goods like natural resources. These are goods that all people may use without charge, but that are in limited supply—for example, the fish in the ocean or the water on a mountain. Without regulation, some people might take too much of these good and leave none for others, as would happen if someone started clearing out all the trees from the forest or overfishing the seas. Governments also create a structure for citizens to make their needs and opinions known to their leaders, which is called representative democracy. This is in contrast to a dictatorship, where a few powerful individuals control the entire country and its economy.

A common function of government is to redistribute money, such as by paying unemployment benefits or offering retirement programs. This is done by raising taxes from people and businesses, and then giving the funds back to those who need them, such as poor children or the elderly. This can cause conflict, because many people have strong opinions about how much help the government should provide and to whom.

Another function of government is to manage positive externalities, which are problems caused by economic activity that affect people in the community but are not accounted for in market prices. Examples of positive externalities are the maintenance of clean air, the protection of biodiversity and the prevention of global warming. Governments manage these externalities by making rules, for instance by limiting pollution or setting standards on fishing and hunting.

Finally, governments protect people, including the right to life and property. They do this by imposing rules, for instance by providing laws against murder and theft, and by enforcing the law. They also provide services such as free public schools, police and fire departments, and mail delivery. They are also responsible for maintaining the military, which is a national defense against external attacks.

The government is made up of elected officials, who represent the people in a region or state. They work in groups to draft policy and laws, which they then implement with the help of governmental agencies, also known as departments. Government officials are usually members of a group of people with similar ideas and philosophies, which is called a party.

Government is a complex entity, and there are many different ways to organize it. The most important thing is to have a form of government that can provide stability and many crucial services, while ensuring that the rights of all citizens are protected. This requires a system of checks and balances, and the separation of powers that makes it difficult for any one person or group to dominate the government. It is also important to have an election process that allows people to choose the level of government they want, and a legislative branch that can pass laws, even those that contradict those passed by the executive branch.