What Do Government Do?

Governments are, according to Economy.org, organizations that set rules, collect taxes and spend money on services for the public good. 

The United States has three levels of government that provide services on the federal, state and local level. Only the federal government can enact laws that regulate the entire nation, print currency, set and collect federal taxes, and create programs that benefits the welfare of all citizens regardless of state. Below are just a few examples of services that the US federal government provides, as per OurPublicService.org:

  • Social Security payments help 51 million Americans
  • College loan programs help millions who might otherwise not be able to afford higher education.
  • U.S. Postal Service inspection programs help prevent mail fraud.
  • Social Security disability provides benefits if you become too disabled to work. 
  • Medicare provides government health care for seniors.

The Pew-MacArthur Results Initiative posited that “Government leaders can improve public outcomes, reduce costs, and increase accountability by ensuring that resources are directed toward effective, cost-beneficial programs.”

Evaluating The Effectiveness Of The NYC.Gov Website

Technology is just one of the many resources available to all levels of government.

The NYC.gov site provides up-to-date information regarding New York city services and programs, including parking regulations, school closures and garbage collection on the homepage.

Some of the ways that the NYC.gov has innovated the process of connecting citizens to available resources:

  • Created a government directory based on category, such as benefits, courts and education, instead of knowing the specific name of the department. 
  • A citizen can get information, over the phone or on the site, from the city’s 311 help line, where a specific question about the city can be answered and addressed.
  • The ACCESS NYC tool, where a resident can “find help in NYC with food, money, housing, work and more.”

Before these features were in place, a resident had to know in advance which bureaucratic agency they needed to address specific issues, how to contact them and what resources might be available. In 2002, then mayor Micheal Bloomberg made creating the 311 system one of his top priorities in his first year in office. Per the New York Times:

”In terms of customer service,” he said, ”we have to have the attitude that we are working for the people of New York City, and rather than making it difficult for them, rather than making them be the ones that have to do the research to find who can help them, what we want to do is to provide the service and have us do the work.”


Homepage. (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2019, from https://psrw.ourpublicservice.org/.

What do governments actually do? (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2019, from https://www.ecnmy.org/learn/your-government/the-role-of-the-state/what-do-governments-actually-do/.

Assessing the Effectiveness of Government Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2019, from https://www.macfound.org/press/publications/assessing-effectiveness-government-programs/.

Moskovitz, D. (n.d.). The Public Policy Lean Canvas. Retrieved November 16, 2019, from https://leanpolicy.org/.

Cardwell, D. (2002, February 1). Bloomberg Plans Quick Start of Citywide 311 Phone System. Retrieved November 16, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/01/nyregion/bloomberg-plans-quick-start-of-citywide-311-phone-system.html.