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What is the purpose of Government?

If you were to ask a dozen people what the purpose of government is, you would undoubtedly get a dozen distinctly different answers. Despite ideology, however, all governments have similar basic purposes.

The Four Basic Purposes of Government

Government is established to serve four primary purposes: protecting citizens from external threats, establishing laws, providing for the general welfare, and maintaining order and security. How they fulfill these purposes depends on the specific type of government. For instance, laws are created and enforced to meet the needs of the citizens in a democracy while they are developed to meet the wants of the leadership in a dictatorship.

For Americans, the Preamble of the Constitution spells these goals out explicitly. It reads:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Establishment of Laws

The legitimate authority to enact and enforce laws is one primary purpose of government. As such, governments institute laws and punish those that break them.

As always, the way in which these laws are created and adhered to varies depending on the type of government in question.

With a dictatorship, the ruler creates the laws but is entirely immune to them. Meanwhile, in a democracy, laws are created by citizens and in a republic, they are made to be the citizens through their representatives.

The principle of rule of law is important to a democratic government as it ensures that citizens and the government both operate under the same laws to protect and limit them. Thus, nobody is above the law and it is applied equally in a democracy.

To ensure that this holds true in all instances, laws are recorded publicly, equally enforced and interpreted by an unbiased and independent body. In the United States, that body is the judicial branch of the government.

In the American democratic republic, all individuals possess the same rights under the law and the criminal justice system is charged with enforcing laws the same way for all members of the community. Those tasked with administering the law are included in that with both the governed and those who govern equally held to the same standard.

To that end, more than 12 members of the legislative body responsible for the creation of laws – the U.S. Congress – were charged with a serious crime in the first two decades of the 21st century.

Maintaining Order and Security

The power and responsibility to protect citizens from crimes of all types and to settle disputes between parties by regulating interactions also rest with the government. Governments are responsible for protecting their citizens from harm.

How this goal of providing security and order is accomplished takes different forms depending on the type of government. In a democracy where the focus is on ensuring the realization of citizens’ rights and safety is paramount, the dictatorial focus on maintaining the power of the regime seems unconscionable.

This step often goes hand in hand with the first purpose of government, at least in democracies. The laws established in a democratic government are designed to protect its citizens, maintain order and provide security to all.

The Preamble of the U.S. Constitution says, “insur[ing] domestic Tranquility.” This tranquility includes the creation of institutions like the criminal justice system. Their role is to enforce the laws of the land and protect citizens from threats to their physical, financial and psychological security. Additionally, the civil justice system allows citizens to settle disputes between themselves with an unbiased and fair mediator, the U.S. courts.

Protection from External Threats

The protection of citizens is not confined to within the borders of the government’s region of influence. Protecting citizens from external threats is another purpose of government and includes several factors.

The formation, implementation and utilization of military forces are one of these factors. As is the participation in international diplomatic actions and agreements that provide protection from threats from foreign entities.

This protection includes invisible attacks like cyber espionage and intellectual property theft as well as physical assaults like the terrorist attacks on the United States World Trade Center on September 11th in 2001.

To fulfill this purpose, governments have the ability to promote international security for their citizens through the declaration of war or by participating in diplomatic efforts. Signing treaties, sending ambassadors and establishing trade agreements all help to support and further the peacekeeping efforts of governments.

Providing for the General Welfare

The final purpose of government – although no less important than the others – is providing for the general welfare of its citizens. As with all other duties of government, how this purpose is interpreted and acted upon depends on the type of government in question.

A democratic government seeks to ensure the prosperity, happiness and health of its citizens and enacts a variety of government programs to do just that. A dictatorship or other fascist form of government generally seeks to provide just enough for their citizens to survive but not enough to give them any real power.

Even within democratic governments, the extent and nature of government programs vary greatly. The range of services provided to citizens depends largely on the values of that specific society.

Furthermore, there are few true democracies and how one provides for the general welfare of its citizens is often tempered by the other political ideology affecting that government. For instance, the United States is a democratic republic. Thus, their democratic ideology is tempered with the principles of a republic.

Services designed by governments to promote the general welfare of its citizens often include:

  • Support services for the aged or poor
  • Public education
  • Health care service
  • Access to clean water and air
  • Emergency services
  • Building and maintaining an efficient and safe infrastructure

Again, how these services are implemented depends largely on the values of the society and the government itself. In much of Europe, governance provides extensive services in what is known as social welfare states. Communist countries, however, provide only the bare minimum.

Wrapping It Up

Each person’s personal ideology influences what they see as the purpose of government. In much the same way, the form of a government takes influences how that government fulfills its purpose. Despite differing outlooks, all governments have four essential purposes: protecting citizens from external threats, establishing laws, providing for the general welfare, and maintaining order and security.

What type of government is the United States?

The United States is a republic, a form of government in which the people and the representatives they elect hold the power. The founders wanted to escape living under a monarchy and chose to form a new government. The government was framed as a republic so the people could elect representatives to make policy decisions. The country has 50 states, several territories, and one district, the District of Columbia. Several countries, including West Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and Australia, model their governments after the U.S.

System of Checks and Balances

The U.S. Constitution divides the government into three branches to prevent one branch from gaining too much power. The president nominates people to head federal agencies. Congress has the ability to confirm or reject the president’s nominees, and Congress may remove a president from office that they consider unfit to serve.

Politics in the U.S. are dominated by the Democratic and Republican parties. The president is usually elected from one of the two parties. The president heads the federal government, but each state has its own form of administration. The powers of each state exist within their boundaries, but they have no jurisdiction over any of the other states. Each state government is made up of the governor and the state legislature.

The three branches of the United States government are:

  • Executive
  • Legislative
  • Judiciary

Executive Branch

The executive branch is made up of the president, the vice-president, and the cabinet. The president is the most powerful person in the government, but the powers of the president are limited by the U.S. Constitution. The president is the commander-in-chief of the military and appoints a cabinet. The president may only serve two terms of four years.

Legislative Branch

The legislative branch of the U.S. government is bicameral, composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House has 435 members that each represent a congressional district. The higher the population of a state, the more representation they have. Each of the U.S. territories is represented in Congress. The U.S. Senate is composed of 100 senators, two from each state. Each senate term is six years. The president may choose appointees to federal government positions, but many must be approved by the senate.

Judicial Branch

The judicial branch of the U.S. government is intended to be independent of the executive and legislative branches. The judiciary is composed of the Supreme Court and the Federal Courts. Supreme Court Justices are nominated by the president and may be confirmed or rejected by the U.S. Senate. The Supreme Court explains laws and has the power to uphold and apply them. The court has the ability to overturn laws that they believe are unconstitutional.

Why The United States Must Be A Republic

Article IV of the U.S Constitution requires that each state of the union must be a republic. Section 4 of Article IV states the U.S. must guarantee that every state in the union has a Republican Form of Government. This isn’t a reference to the Republican Party but means that the government isn’t ruled by a king. The government must be accountable to all its citizens under the rule of law. The laws of the United States must be applied equally to all people.

Difference Between Republic And Democracy

Many people are confused about the similarities and differences between a republic and a democracy. Both types of government are representative. The people vote for the politicians they want to represent them. The primary difference between the two forms of government is that a republic has a charter or constitution to preserve the rights of the people. In a pure democracy, the will of the majority may be imposed on the rights of the minority.

Primary Features Of A Republic

  1. A republic is opposed to one person having full control of the government to prevent abuses against the minority.
  2. A representative democracy and a republic are similar. However, a republic has a written constitution to protect the rights of the people.
  3. Republics are designed to prevent the separation of different classes by political, economic, or class distinctions. States handle these matters in different ways.
  4. Most republics are free-market economies. The economic policies under which each state is governed are voted on in Congress by the representatives elected by the people.
  5. A republic adheres to freedom of religion. The U.S. constitution prohibits infringing on anyone’s religious rights.
  6. Freedom of speech, the press, and religion are guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The rights to petition the government and peacefully protest is guaranteed.
  7. There is a constitutional provision against interfering with the rights of private property owners.

The party that’s voted in to run the country cannot take away certain rights of the people, including the right to vote. Among the modern-day versions of republics are France, Costa Rica, Ireland, and Switzerland. Many people confuse the terms representative and direct democracy. Although the United States has representatives who vote on laws, the country is a democratic republic.

The rule of law governs the U.S. Anyone elected to public office is bound to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States. The laws of the country are supposed to protect all its citizens. Article 4, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution was written into the document because the founders wanted a democratic republic rather than a monarchy.

Constitutional republics work best together when there’s free trade between countries. One of the pitfalls of the system of government in the United States is that laws that would benefit the people can be deadlocked by the majority party.

The president is the commander-in-chief of the military. However, it’s the duty of Congress to appropriate military spending and has the power to declare war on other nations. Congress may overturn decisions of the Supreme Court by passing amendments to the constitution. Congress also has the ability to impeach the president and members of the judicial branch of the government.

What type of government is the United States?

The United States is a republic, a form of government in which the people and the representatives they elect hold the power. The founders wanted to escape living under a monarchy and chose to form a new government. The government was framed as a republic so the people could elect representatives to make policy decisions. The country has 50 states, several territories, and one district, the District of Columbia. Several countries, including West Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and Australia, model their governments after the U.S.

System of Checks and Balances

The U.S. Constitution divides the government into three branches to prevent one branch from gaining too much power. The president nominates people to head federal agencies. Congress has the ability to confirm or reject the president’s nominees, and Congress may remove a president from office that they consider unfit to serve.

Politics in the U.S. are dominated by the Democratic and Republican parties. The president is usually elected from one of the two parties. The president heads the federal government, but each state has its own form of administration. The powers of each state exist within their boundaries, but they have no jurisdiction over any of the other states. Each state government is made up of the governor and the state legislature.

The three branches of the United States government are:

  • Executive
  • Legislative
  • Judiciary

Executive Branch

The executive branch is made up of the president, the vice-president, and the cabinet. The president is the most powerful person in the government, but the powers of the president are limited by the U.S. Constitution. The president is the commander-in-chief of the military and appoints a cabinet. The president may only serve two terms of four years.

Legislative Branch

The legislative branch of the U.S. government is bicameral, composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House has 435 members that each represent a congressional district. The higher the population of a state, the more representation they have. Each of the U.S. territories is represented in Congress. The U.S. Senate is composed of 100 senators, two from each state. Each senate term is six years. The president may choose appointees to federal government positions, but many must be approved by the senate.

Judicial Branch

The judicial branch of the U.S. government is intended to be independent of the executive and legislative branches. The judiciary is composed of the Supreme Court and the Federal Courts. Supreme Court Justices are nominated by the president and may be confirmed or rejected by the U.S. Senate. The Supreme Court explains laws and has the power to uphold and apply them. The court has the ability to overturn laws that they believe are unconstitutional.

Why The United States Must Be A Republic

Article IV of the U.S Constitution requires that each state of the union must be a republic. Section 4 of Article IV states the U.S. must guarantee that every state in the union has a Republican Form of Government. This isn’t a reference to the Republican Party but means that the government isn’t ruled by a king. The government must be accountable to all its citizens under the rule of law. The laws of the United States must be applied equally to all people.

Difference Between Republic And Democracy

Many people are confused about the similarities and differences between a republic and a democracy. Both types of government are representative. The people vote for the politicians they want to represent them. The primary difference between the two forms of government is that a republic has a charter or constitution to preserve the rights of the people. In a pure democracy, the will of the majority may be imposed on the rights of the minority.

Primary Features Of A Republic

  1. A republic is opposed to one person having full control of the government to prevent abuses against the minority.
  2. A representative democracy and a republic are similar. However, a republic has a written constitution to protect the rights of the people.
  3. Republics are designed to prevent the separation of different classes by political, economic, or class distinctions. States handle these matters in different ways.
  4. Most republics are free-market economies. The economic policies under which each state is governed are voted on in Congress by the representatives elected by the people.
  5. A republic adheres to freedom of religion. The U.S. constitution prohibits infringing on anyone’s religious rights.
  6. Freedom of speech, the press, and religion are guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The rights to petition the government and peacefully protest is guaranteed.
  7. There is a constitutional provision against interfering with the rights of private property owners.

The party that’s voted in to run the country cannot take away certain rights of the people, including the right to vote. Among the modern-day versions of republics are France, Costa Rica, Ireland, and Switzerland. Many people confuse the terms representative and direct democracy. Although the United States has representatives who vote on laws, the country is a democratic republic.

The rule of law governs the U.S. Anyone elected to public office is bound to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States. The laws of the country are supposed to protect all its citizens. Article 4, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution was written into the document because the founders wanted a democratic republic rather than a monarchy.

Constitutional republics work best together when there’s free trade between countries. One of the pitfalls of the system of government in the United States is that laws that would benefit the people can be deadlocked by the majority party.

The president is the commander-in-chief of the military. However, it’s the duty of Congress to appropriate military spending and has the power to declare war on other nations. Congress may overturn decisions of the Supreme Court by passing amendments to the constitution. Congress also has the ability to impeach the president and members of the judicial branch of the government.

What are the three branches of Government and their responsibilities?

Most Americans only have a basic understanding of how the United States Government operates and is structured. If you fall into that category, do not feel bad! This multi-faceted government system is dynamic and complex, to say the least. Here is a comprehensive guide to understanding the three branches of the Unites States Government and the responsibilities that each plays in making the country run.

The Legislative Branch

The main role of the Legislative Branch is to establish laws. The two chambers (people and processes) that make up the Legislative Branch are called Congress. Congress is divided up into two distinct bodies called the Senate and the House of Representatives. The people of each state elect two Senate representatives to serve terms of six years. The House of Representatives consists of 435 total individuals. The number of Representatives each state elects is proportionate to the population of that state. House representatives serve two year terms. There is no limit to the number of terms any individual may serve on either the Senate or the House of Representatives.

The Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches of the United States Government have been in place since the drafting of the United States Constitution. They were designed as such in an attempt to balance governmental authority and prevent dictatorship. While the various laws and committees adjust to changing social circumstances and world events, the process of checks and balances remains.

In addition to the Senate and the House of Representatives, Congress also consists of several smaller agencies with very specific functions. These include the following agencies related to the Capitol building: Architect of the Capitol building, the Capitol Visitor’s Center, the Capitol Police, and the Botanic Garden. It also includes the the Congressional Budget Office and Research Agency, the Copyright, Government Accountability, and Government Publishing Offices, the House Offices of Inspector General and Clerk, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, the Library of Congress, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission and Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, the Office of Compliance, the Open World Leadership Center, and the Stennis Center for Public Service.

Congress spends the majority of it time drafting up new laws to propose. Laws begin as bills, which is the name for a piece of legislation that has been brought before the legislative branch but not yet passed into an official law. Bills can be introduced and sponsored by any member of the Senate or House, and is then assigned to a committee of members who research and fine tune it. Once the committee feels confident with the bill, they present it to the rest of their chamber for voting. If passed, it transfers to the other chamber for the same process. If both chambers pass the bill, they then must agree upon one single version and then present it to the President. The President may either approve the bill into a law or veto the bill. If vetoed by the President, Congress may or may not vote to overturn the veto and pass the bill into a law, depending on how long the President takes to make his or her decision.

In addition to law making, Congress confirms and rejects the President’s nominations for agency members, federal judges, and the Supreme Court. More information on these individuals is presented below in the discussion on the Judicial Branch. Congress also possesses the authority to declare war.

The Executive Branch

While the President of the United States is involved in the actions of the other two branches, his or her office formally resides within the Executive Branch. The Executive Branch is responsible for carrying out the laws passed by the Legislative Branch. The President wears many hats within this branch: leader of the nation and the federal government, head of state, and Commander in Chief of the United States Military. Presidents are elected for four year terms and may serve two terms.

The Vice President of the United States also sits in the Executive Branch. His or her main duty is to support the President. Should the President become unable to serve for any reason, the Vice President steps into the role of President. Vice Presidents are also elected to four year terms along with specific Presidents, but they may serve an unlimited amount of terms with different Presidents.

The Vice President is also a member of the Cabinet, the third body of the Executive Branch. Members of the Cabinet, who also include Executive Department Heads and others in highly ranked Government offices, act as advisors to the President. Cabinet members are nominated by the President and approved by a majority Senate vote.

Similar to the Legislative Branch, much of the work of the Executive Branch is conducted through special agencies and committees. The Executive Office of the President contains nine offices tasked with communicating the president’s messages regarding top issues such as the federal budget and national security. There are 15 U.S. Executive Departments governing all other important aspects of the United States Government, the heads of which are members of the Cabinet. There are also a plethora of sub-agencies and independent agencies in place to manage specific issues and special populations.

The Judicial Branch

Last but not least, the Judicial Branch is responsible for interpreting the laws. This includes deciding whether or not they support the United States Constitution, and applying them to specific legal cases. This branch is split into the Supreme Court and Other Federal Courts and Agencies.

The Supreme Court is comprised of nine members, called Justices. They are all nominated by the President and approved by a majority Senate vote, and there is no fixed term length. There is one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices, and it takes agreement among at least six Justices to make a formal ruling. Cases are brought to the Supreme Court by Lower Courts who either are struggling to make a decision or whose decision is being challenged. In the case of a tie among the Supreme Court, the decision of the lower court is upheld.

As mentioned above, Congress votes in other Federal Judicial Courts. These courts manage cases related to specific issues such as Constitutional law suits, Military cases, financial issues such as taxation and bankruptcy, and trade. They also elect members to Federal Judicial Agencies responsible for supporting the Courts and conducting judicial research.

The Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches of the United States Government have been in place since their original draft into the United States Constitution. They were designed to spread governmental authority among many in order to prevent dictatorship. While the individual committees and laws adjust to meet the needs of modern society and current events, the system of checks and balances will remain forevermore.

What does the Federal Government do?

Societies of people established governments to help regulate law and order. When the United States became a nation, rather than just a colony of Britain, those who stepped into leadership roles developed the United States Constitution. This document established the roles and functions of the United States Government as we know them today.

In the Federal Government, there are three main branches. Congress is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives and is responsible for creating the laws based on the populace’s needs in their states. The citizens of the country elect those who hold positions in Congress. Each state has two Senators, and the state’s population determines how many representatives are in the lower branch of Congress.

The presidency (who is elected by the people), vice presidency, the cabinet, and those nominated by the president to carry out their orders make up the Executive Branch. The executive branch is responsible for enforcing the laws of the government.

The Supreme Court makes up the Judicial Branch. The Judicial Branch’s role is to interpret the Constitution and determine whether the laws that Congress makes and the Executive enforces are legal. The three branches of government are separate but equal. Their primary function is to protect, serve, and carry out the tasks of order that the people decide, ensuring their safety and well-being.

The Federal, State, and Local governments all have different functions. The Federal Government may play a role in state affairs when it comes to distributing funding. However, the Federal Government maintains systems that benefit all United States citizens, not just a particular region, except in a case of civil unrest or natural disaster.

The federal government is allowed to do several things that state governments cannot. First and foremost, with the establishment of the Bill of Rights, the federal government sets the foundation of freedom within our society. The Bill of Rights guarantees individuals the ability of free speech, press, and assembly; the right to bear arms; due process of law; and the right to privacy. These rights are the foundation of what makes the United States have the identity that it does. Because of the federal government’s role of protecting that right, Americans enjoy the essence of being a free society.

One of the primary functions of the federal government is to protect its citizens. The federal government can create an army and to declare war. It can also create a National Guard, which promotes law and order within a country if the state governments need assistance. The Federal Government also has the authority to disburse aid to the international communities.

Another primary function of the federal government is to maintain infrastructure. Federal infrastructure includes the central railroad systems, bridges, and roadways. Taxes are collected to make sure that people can conduct interstate travels.

Based on acts passed by Congress, the federal government also can assist in domestic affairs. Assistance is typically carried out through various agencies in the executive branch. Some of these include food and drug regulation, administrative of social benefits like health care and food assistance, and to assist in Veteran Affairs. Many agencies help regulate domestic affairs, ensuring that citizens from all states are supported at a basic level if they qualify.

Internationally speaking, only the federal government has the authority to regulate trade and commerce. It also can intercede with foreign affairs if it deems necessary. Actions in foreign affairs include supplying humanitarian aid, establishing order, and working in international groups like the United Nations on behalf of the United States’ citizens. The Federal Government also can borrow money, lend money, and acquire new territories.

The United States also runs the US Postal Service. Since the postal service is one of the oldest forms of delivering communications across the country, it is regulated and paid for by the federal government.

There are many things that the federal government does not do. First, it does not have the right to stomp on state governments’ rights. Although they provide some state funding to state governments, they cannot regulate state affairs. For example, the federal government can mandate that citizens have to make at least a certain amount of money per hour, but states can create a higher regulation that people need to make more than that. States can also provide other services that go beyond what the federal government does.

Many individuals think that the federal government is too large and those who think it is too small. This argument has been around since the establishment of the Constitution. Political parties often align to this division as well. However, the federal government provides the basic framework that allows a set baseline of what its citizens should receive.

To pay for all of these services, the United States government imposes taxes on individuals in the form of an income tax. State and local governments also can tax their constituents. The Internal Revenue Service, an agency of the executive branch’s Department of the Treasury, collects the taxes. Tax revenue is then budgeted by Congress each year.

Without a federal government, the United States would be at constant risk of being overtaken by an outside entity. There would be a massive difference between the states, within no regulation of any infrastructural system (economic or transportation), which would create enormous chaos. Also, without a federal government, states could ultimately have more control over individuals’ rights without having to adhere to any basic standards. A federal government provides a sense of uniformity while still allowing each of its own unique identities.

The United States Federal Government provides a necessary foundation for an order for its citizens. It ensures that commerce is efficient, there is a primary communication delivery level, areas experiencing natural disasters receive aid, and that citizens receive basic needs to survive. The Constitution serves as the rule book for this level of government. Each respective branch of government, and the balance of power therein, ensures basic fundamental rights for all citizens of the country.
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