No tribe, community, or society has ever managed to get along without some means of governing it selt. We can define government as the institutions and processes through which public policies are made for a society. In some (but not all) modern governments, a written constitution fixes the institutional form af a government. Whether or not governments are actually based on some printed document, they all perform the following necessary functions :

  1. They maintain a military and supply its arsenal.
  2. They provide such public services as hospitals, old-age pensions, and police protection.
  3. They collect taxes.
  4. They socialize their citizens into the political and social system by providing schooling.

In fact, if we compare our government spending with that of other economically developed, ours has one of the lesser anmounts as a percentage of the gross national product.

Schoolchildren hare, and in most other countries, learn quickly that governments have legislative, executive, and judicial tasks to perform. The president is to be the main performer in the legislative role, although the president is to be the executive, whose executive task is spelled out in just nine words of the Constitution (“take care that the laws shall be faithfully executed). Finally, every government possesses some means of settling disputes. This task belongs to the courts, which have always been powerfull and often controversial alements in our government process.

Together, the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government are involved in deciding what the government will do in a tremendous number of situations. How will its tax revenues?How will it deal with the pollution of the air or water?Sometimes the branches of government agree with each other while often they do not. Sometimes they respond to public pressure and sometimes not. Nevertheless, whenever the government decides to do something, it has made public policy.


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