The Basics of Government


Government is the group of people who make the rules and laws that govern an organized community, such as a nation. It also enforces those rules and laws, and it tries to ensure that everyone gets what they need. Governments like ours, called representative democracies, give citizens the power to vote and speak out about issues that affect them. These governments are mostly concerned with public life, but the laws that they set and enforce can also regulate what happens in private lives.

The United States government is broken into three branches, each with its own responsibilities. When the founding fathers designed this system, they wanted to be sure that it would work well. To do this, they separated the power of making and enforcing laws into the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judiciary branch. They also set up a process that balances out each of these branches so that one does not become too powerful. This is called the system of checks and balances.

In addition to making and enforcing laws, the legislative branch makes sure that the money needed to pay for government services is available. It does this by levying taxes and tariffs. If those are not enough, it can borrow.

Congress also sets an annual budget for the entire government. This budget is divided into categories of spending known as earmarks. Each earmark represents specific projects, like building a dam or buying new computers. Congress can only approve these earmarks with a two-thirds majority vote. This is a way of ensuring that the president does not simply take away funds that could be used to help people who need it.

The executive branch is responsible for carrying out the laws that Congress makes. It also makes appointments and oversees the operation of government departments. It also represents the United States in talks with leaders of other countries. Its members are called the cabinet. The President has the power to veto any law that Congress passes. If the veto is overridden, the bill becomes law. The president also nominates Supreme Court justices and judges of the courts of appeal and district. Congress can approve or reject these nominations, and it can impeach a judge who is not doing his or her job.

Finally, the judicial branch interprets laws and judges constitutionality. It can also overturn unconstitutional laws passed by Congress or the executive branch.

Many of us take for granted the many valuable things that our government does for us. We have a military to protect us from foreign attacks, and we have police and fire departments to keep the peace. Our government provides food, housing, and health care for those who need it. Our government even sends diplomats to talk with leaders in other countries to try to avoid war, trade agreements, and exchanges of cultural or social experiences and knowledge. In all of these ways, the government works to protect the common good — things that we all use but are in limited supply and must be protected so that a few do not consume them all and leave others with nothing.