The Role of Government
Government is the institution through which a country, state or locality exercises authority and performs functions. Governments can be formed for a variety of reasons and may differ in terms of power, structure and rules. Governments have historically been in charge of making laws and taking care of people. However, over time governments have started to delegate more responsibilities to other organizations such as private companies that provide healthcare and education. The government is still responsible for law enforcement.
The most important role that government plays is providing safety and stability to society as well as essential services such as free public education, police and fire services, mail delivery and natural resource management. Governments are also in charge of regulating access to common goods like wildlife, public lands and water resources so that one person or group does not take too much and leave others with nothing.
Another function that government performs is taxing and redistributing income and expenditures. Governments collect taxes from individuals and businesses to fund things such as education, unemployment and social security. People have strong opinions about how much the government should spend and what types of programs it should run so this function often generates controversy.
Finally, the government plays a key role in managing positive externalities, which are things that benefit a large number of people but do not get priced into the market. Examples include environmental protection, global warming regulation and health care regulation. Governments are in a position to manage these externalities because they have the ability to affect the whole population with their policy choices.
Governments are also in a unique position to regulate businesses because they have the power to influence markets and make rules that influence behavior. There are many reasons why this is needed, including the fact that some businesses damage the environment, use child labor or violate immigration laws in pursuit of profits. These types of behaviors must be managed so that the competitiveness of legitimate businesses is not damaged. Lastly, the government also creates a system whereby citizens can make their needs and opinions known to government officials. This is called citizen participation and is a vital part of representative democracy, which is the form of government most commonly found in the United States. Citizens can participate in many ways, such as volunteering to clean a park or organizing a litter-clearing campaign, but the most important way to be heard is by electing representatives to speak for them at the city council, county board of supervisors or state legislature.