Government is the machinery through which the will of the state is done.

It is the institution that is charged with the responsibility of managing the affairs of a state.

Government is the group of people that is in charge of creating and upholding the laws and policies that have been approved by the majority of the populace.

As an institution, Government has the following characteristics:

1. Law: Government is a group of people who represent the state by performing ceremonial and executive functions.

As people, their actions and behaviour are regulated by the law to ensure that there is no misuse of government power

Laws guide the behaviour of everyone in government as well as citizens of a state.

It defines the rights, responsibilities and duties of every member of the government.

In most states, the law is referred to as the constitution.

2. Power: This is the ability to compel people to do something that ordinarily there would not do.

Power enables the government to influence the citizens and enacts laws and policies that citizens will obey.

In our society, the government generally has the following powers.

  • Power to make laws and regulations
  • Power to defend the country
  • Power to collect taxes
  • Power to create jobs
  • Power to decide how much money should be in circulation
  • Power to spend money on public goods and services such as education, healthcare, and security
  • Power to give subsidies or tax breaks for specific groups of people or companies
  • The power to regulate prices for goods and services such as gasoline, electricity, water supply etc.

Indeed, it is this power that enables the government to maintain law and order in society.

3. Government exist in a different form: There is a different form of government.

Form of government is the system of government that is in place in a country

Some states such as the US and Mexico, have democratic governments.

Others States such as the UK, and Morocco, have monarch governments.

While a few states such as North Korea and Afghanistan, have dictatorial governments.

4. Legitimacy: To be successful, the government must be widely accepted, as no government can succeed without public support or acceptance.

Indeed, a government began to crumble whenever it loses legitimacy or public support.

5. Periodic changes: Legitimacy requires the change in government regularly.

This can be easily achieved through the election, where existing political officer holders test their popularity or legitimacy through the poll.

When governments do not change for an extended length of time, their legitimacy begins to erode, perhaps leading to a political crisis.

Furthermore, periodic changes in government do not only imply a transfer of power, it simply means that power should be acquired legally as specified in the constitution of the state.

If a government acquire power through illegal means, it may be considered illegitimate

This perhaps explains why most military takeovers are usually considered illegitimate.

it is clear that a government's legitimacy is determined by:

  • Its acceptance among the populace.
  • Whether the government came to power legally, such as through elections.
  • The legitimacy of the decisions made by the government. For example, the government cannot command citizens to start killing themselves as this would amount to an illegitimate decision

6. Sovereignty: This means that government possess full control over affairs within the state.

Sovereignty guarantees that the government's reach extends across the entire state.

That is, the government's power extends to every action, person, or group within the state.

7. Revenue: Government employs a large number of people to manage a state's affairs, and these individuals must be compensated.

This means government have to generate the funds required to carry out its operation successfully.

This can be easily done through the levying of tax, fines and imposition of customs duties.

8. Government controls the use of physical force: Among the important functions of government is the maintenance of law and orders and protection against external aggression.

To perform these functions, the government controls the police and the armed forces (army, air force, navy).

Government possess the sole power to control and regulate the activities of the armed forces.

It has the legal right to use the police, armed forces to compel obedience from citizens or restore domestic order, whenever it is violated.

Furthermore, the government has the authority to control and regulate the use of weapons of destruction (bombs, guns) by individuals or groups.

9. Government decisions are legally binding on the state: Government has the power to make decisions on behalf of the state and such decisions whether good or bad, is legally binding on the citizens of a country.

The implication is that any decisions made by the government must be followed by the citizens of a state.

This means compliance with government policies is not voluntary, it is compulsory and mandated by the Constitution.

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