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Politics is the way that people living in groups make decisions. Politics is about making agreements between people so that they can live together in groups such as tribes, cities, or countries. In large groups, such as countries, some people may spend a lot of their time making such agreements. These people are called politicians. Politicians, and sometimes other people, may get together to form a government. The study of politics in universities is called political science, political studies, or public administration.
In everyday life, the term "politics" refers to the way that countries are governed, and to the ways that governments make rules and laws. But politics can also be seen in other groups, too, such as in big companies, schools and churches.
The government tries to lead the whole group. Governments do things such as:
- Decide which people get which pieces of land
- Decide which people can tell other people what to do
- Decide whether to go to war with another country
- Create money
- Build things for the use of the whole group, such as roads, hospitals, libraries, and docks.
- Educate people, either for their own good, or to teach them what the government wants them to know
- Take care of the very young, the sick, or the very old
- Manage the welfare of the country and manages the money available for spending on services (Hospitals, Schools, etc.)
One of the ways the government leads the group is by making laws and rules which tell everybody what they can and can not do. The government makes these laws so that society will be safe and well-ordered. The law that "you must not drink alcohol while driving a car" stops people from drunk driving, which could kill people. The law "you must wear a helmet on a motorcycle" makes sure that people protect themselves.
The government can also control people and what happens in a country in other ways besides making laws.
- For example, how the government spends its money makes a big difference in what people will do or what will happen to people. If the government spends a lot of money on hospitals and nurses, the people will probably become healthier.
- Also, if people like their government, or think that their government is wise, they may do something just because their government says it is a good thing to do. Governments often make posters or television advertisements that encourage people to stop smoking cigarettes or eat more fruits and vegetables.
Politics is often compared to ethics (ideas about right and wrong). Ethics is a more abstract study of right and wrong. Ethics is usually more concerned with principle than law or politics or diplomacy, so many people think ethics is not practical. But without some agreement on ethics, there is probably no way to even have a debate, laws or an election. There is always some agreement on ethics and personal conduct in a political system.
In most countries, people have formed political parties to put forward their ideas. There is usually some disagreement between people within a party, but they work together because they feel that they agree on enough things, and they will have more power if they join together. They agree to take the same position on many issues, and agree to support the same changes to law and the same leaders. An election is usually a competition between different parties.
In the 1800s, John Stuart Mill developed the "liberal" idea of politics. Mill said that democracy is the most important political development of the 1800s. He said that there should be more protection for individual rights against the government. Bernard Crick wrote a list of the political virtues, which were about best practices of politics itself.
There are also disagreements between different countries. Attempts to solve the problem with meetings are called diplomacy. This is politics between nations instead of politics within nations. If the problems are not resolved by diplomatic meetings they can lead to war or terrorism.
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