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A government is the body that has the authority to make and the power to enforce laws within an organization or group. In its broadest sense, "to govern" means to administer or supervise, whether over an area of land, a set group of people, or a collection of assets. The word government is derived from the Greek Κυβερνήτης (kubernites), which means "steersman", "governor", "pilot" or "rudder".

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Contents

Reasons for government
Governmental operations
Size of government


Attributes of governments
Effective governments possess two attributes, authority and legitimacy. Authority is the ability to compel obedience. Authority can be derived from naked force or terror as was the case in Stalinist Russia or Baathist Iraq or from a social contract between governed and government as is the case in many western democracies.Physical violence is not the only form of duress that compels loyal behaviour. Corporate organizations use economic leverage to motivate. Indeed, the most coercive venue for governmental bullying may be the ecclesiastical which promises the unfaithful, the heretical, or the infidel an eternity of hellish suffering and thereby garners obedience. Legitimacy is the attribute of a government that prompts the governed to acquiesce willingly to its authority. Legitimacy is gained through the acquisition and application of power in accordance with recognized or accepted standards or principles. That is to say that a legitimate government will "do the right thing" and therefore deserves to be respected and obeyed.Authority can be upheld through violent means while legitimacy must be earned. As legitimacy is challenged the use of violence to maintain authority increases.

Functions of governments
Governments perform three functions. Governments make rules, the legislative function. They enforce the rules, the executive function; and the judicial function wherein the rules are interpreted.All three functions may be combined into a single institution as is the case in autocracies or they may be distributed among separate branches as in the system in place in the United States. The parliamentary system combines legislative and executive functions in one branch and judicial in another.

Forms of Government
Two taxonomies are recognized for the categorization of government types. In the first governments are described by who gets to rule. Monarchies have hereditary rulers, less chosen than nurtured into the post. Oligarchies are governed by a few wealthy members of the community, democracies are governed by the governed, and anarchies are regulated by no one.A more useful taxonomy examines the concentration of power. In an autocracy all power is vested in a single individual. Czarist Russia is an example as is a 19th century British Man-of-War at sea.A continuum of government types may include a limited monarchy (post Runnymede England), a constitutional monarchy, a representative democracy (The United States), and direct democracy.Direct democracy is cumbersome and the most often cited example points to New England (US) town hall meetings where all of the citizens make all of the decisions.


Reasons for government - Contents

There are a wide range of theories about the reasons for establishing governments. The four major ones are briefly described below. Note that they do not always fully oppose each other - it is possible for a person to subscribe to a combination of ideas from two or more of these theories.

Greed and oppression
Many political philosophies that are opposed to the existence of a government (such as Anarchism, and to a lesser extent Marxism), as well as others, emphasize the historical roots of governments - the fact that governments originated from the authority of warlords and petty despots who took, by force, certain patches of land as their own (and began exercising authority over the people living on that land). Thus, it is argued that governments exist to enforce the will of the strong and oppress the weak.

Order and tradition
The various forms of conservatism, by contrast, generally see the government as a positive force that brings order out of chaos, establishes laws to end the " war of all against all", encourages moral virtue while punishing vice, and respects tradition. Sometimes, in this view, the government is seen as something ordained by a higher power, as in the divine right of kings, which human beings have a duty to obey.

Natural rights
Natural rights are the basis for the theory of government shared by most branches of liberalism (including libertarianism). In this view, human beings are born with certain natural rights, and governments are established strictly for the purpose of protecting those rights. What the natural rights actually are is a matter of dispute among liberals - both in the sense of a definition of "rights", and in the sense of listing which rights are natural. Indeed, each branch of liberalism has its own set of rights that it considers to be natural, and these rights are sometimes mutually exclusive with the rights supported by other liberals.

Social contract
One of the most influential theories of government in the past two hundred years has been the social contract, on which modern democracy and most forms of socialism are founded. The social contract theory holds that governments are created by the people in order to provide for collective needs (such as safety from crime, poverty, illiteracy) that cannot be properly satisfied using purely individual means. Governments thus exist for the purpose of serving the needs and wishes of the people, and their relationship with the people is clearly stipulated in a "social contract" (a constitution and a set of laws) which both the government and the people must abide by. If a majority is unhappy, it may change the social contract. If a minority is unhappy, it may persuade the majority to change the contract, or it may opt out of it by emigration or secession.



Governmental operations - Contents

Governments concern themselves with regulating and administering many areas of human activity, such as trade, education, medicine, entertainment, and war.

Enforcement of power
Governments use a variety of methods to maintain the established order, such as secrecy, police and military forces, (particularly under despotism, see also police state), making agreements with other states, and maintaining support within the state. Typical methods of maintaining support and legitimacy include providing the infrastructure for administration, justice, transport, communication, social welfare etc., claiming support from deities, providing benefits to elites, holding elections for important posts within the state, limiting the power of the state through laws and constitutions (see also Bill of Rights) and appealing to nationalism. Different political ideologies hold different ideas on what the government should or should not do.

Territory
The modern standard unit of territory is a country. In addition to the meaning used above, the word state can refer either to a government or to its territory. Within a territory, subnational entities may have local governments which do not have the full power of a national government (for example, they will generally lack the authority to declare war or carry out diplomatic negotiations). ĀİĪ Ǔ çÄņ èÀł


Size of government - Contents

The scale to which government should exist and operate in the world is a matter of debate. Government spending in developed countries varies considerably but generally makes up between about 30% and 70% of their GDP. One major exception is the United States, where central government spending takes up less than 20% of GDP.
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