Describe the purposes and functions of government.

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Focus Question: What is the purpose and function of government?

While in many cases government seems to limit and corrupt the citizens of a nation, it's ideal function would be to "govern" a people. According to the Webster Dictionary, govern is defined as to exercise authority over a society.

Topics on the Page
Definition of Government
Three Branches of U.S. Government
Definition of Politics
Governments Around the World
  • Government of China

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Click here to read about the purpose of government.
  • Here is a t-chart comparing two influential thinkers on the purpose of government Hobbes and Locke

  • Click here for a video called People on the Street: What is the Purpose of Government.
    • Click here for a video from the 2012 Presidential Debate where both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama answer the question of the role of government.
lessonplan.jpgWhy Do We Need a Government?

Definition of Government

"Government is the formal institutions of a society with the authority to make and implement binding decisions about such matters as the distribution of resources, allocation of benefits and burdens, and the management of conflicts" (National Standards for Civics and Government, Center for Civic Education, 1994, p. 89).
  • A simpler way to express this idea is to say that government is the people and groups who make, carry out, and enforce laws and manage disputes about them (National Standards for Civics and Government, Center for Civic Education, 1994, p. 15).

external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.pngClick to view a timeline of early U.S. Government.

primary_sources.PNGMultimedia.pngexternal image Red_apple.jpgBest of History Websites contains an abundance of links to websites for primary source materials, multimedia resources, and lesson plan materials for teaching about the United States Constitution and government.

Congress for Kids is a student friendly website about the U.S. Government

The Three Branches of U.S. Government

  • Executive- This branch is led by the President. They are responsible for carrying out or executing the laws.
    • Legislative- Led by Congress. This includes the Senate and the House of Representatives. The main goal of this branch is to create laws.
      • Judicial- Led by the Supreme Court. It if responsible for interpreting and reviewing laws.

external image IPad_2_Black_Front.jpgMyCongress provides detailed information on Congressional members including connections to their Twitter feeds and other news items.

Multimedia.pngDiscovery Education has excellent video clips on many topics including the presidential powers, the election process, and the important presidents. It also contains links to useful web resources.

Definition of Politicsexternal image Chart_political.png
"Politics is the process by which a group of people, whose opinions or interests might be divergent, reach collective decisions" National Standards for Civics and Government, Center for Civic Education, 1994, p. 89).
Multimedia.pngWhite House 101 contains photo galleries, videos, live streams, and podcasts from the White House. It also provides additional information on the administration, the White House, and our government.

primary_sources.PNGLibrary of Congress: Teachers site provides ready-to-use materials that bring the Library of Congress's primary sources to life. Teachers can fins classroom material that meet their state standards.

Governments Around the Worldexternal image Form_of_Government.png
Map Key:

One useful framework for understanding the functions of government can be found in The Book of Rule: How the World Is Governed (DK Publishing, 2004). This book identifies six different types of governmental systems as well as countries around the world that feature that system of governance.
  • Monarchical Rule: one person rules for life
  • Military Rule: government for a military strongman or junta
  • Democratic Rule: rule by the people
  • Theocratic Rule: governments where the roles of priest and ruler are combined
  • Single-Party Rule: one political party exercises all political authority
  • Transitional Rule: temporary government in a situation of crisis or great change
Multimedia.pngVideo explaining the difference between a Presidential and Parliamentary System.

From the Washington Post, Meet the World's Other 25 Royal Families.

  • Civics is an interactive web-based project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to participate in our democracy.
primary_sources.PNG 100 Milestone Documents will help students and teachers, and teach about the rights and responsibilities of citizens in our democracy.
multicultural.pngThe Role of the Federal Government during Civil Rights Cases, from the Associated Press.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 12.56.56 PM.pngThe State of Gay Rights Around the World, The Washington Post (June 4, 2016)

Here is a link to the white were how power is divided between federal, state, and local governments.

Communist Party Logo
Communist Party Logo

Government of China


Discovery Education: Social Studies Homework Help (2011). Retrieved 4 April 2011 from Discovery Education's site:
Best of History Websites (2008). Retrieved 4 April 2011 from EdTechTeacher's site:
White House 101: Facts and Fun for All Ages. Retrieved 4 April 2011 from the White House's site:
Library of Congress: Teachers. Retrieved 4 April 2011 from the Library of Congress's site:
iCivics. retrieved 4 April 2011 from iCivics's site:
Which Founder are You? Retrieved 4 April 2011 from the National Constitution Center's site:
We the People in Order to Form a More Perfect Union. Retrieved 4 April 2011 from Ourdocument's site:

New images obtained from wikimedia commons.