Big Brother, government overreach, taxes... do we really need a government telling us what to do? What good is it? Depending on who you ask, you'll get vastly different answers. Some people in the United States conflate 'government' with the federal government. But this isn't really accurate. So first, we must answer...
What is 'government'?
This isn't easy to answer, but the simplest concept of government is an agreement to have some make decisions (governors) and the rest to abide by those decisions (the governed). In a democracy (or a representative democracy such as ours), almost every citizen is part of the government. The United States Constitution gives certain people the ability to vote for representatives, which is a type of control over those that govern. It's part of the checks and balances built into the government of the US.
Not every government is designed like this, though. The simplest government is a dictatorship. One rules and the rest must do as told or there will be consequences. It's important to note that, unless the ruler has immense personal power, the populace must be compliant, allowing the dictator to keep power. If you consider the concept of an alpha in a pack, the alpha is usually the most potent in a one on one fight, but this still requires the rest of the pack to allow the alpha to lead. Together, they could defeat the one alpha, but allow the alpha to lead. But why do they need a leader at all?
Strength in Numbers
The leader(s) of a group have a responsibility to ensure that the group is stronger than the sum of the parts. One wolf would struggle taking down prey, but together, they can take it down easily and all eat. For the good of the many, there is coordination. This is why government is the natural progression of social animals. In order to protect themselves, individuals work together so that a single strong predator can't hurt an individual (or at least, the entire group). As the weak gain more protections against the strong, a civilization is built.
In my mind, one can measure how civilized a society is by how many protections the strong bestow upon the weak. And groups of weak individuals can become a strong group by working together, but those strong groups still need to bestow protections upon the weaker groups in order to have a more civilized society. This is a main function of government: protection. The better it does, the more civilized the society is.
The United States Government
Democracies tend to increase civility because of the vote. But direct democracy is akin to mob rule, which often fails to protect the weak. We have a representative democracy in the United States, where we select what is meant to be the best of us to make hard decisions and compromises that a direct democracy might fail to make. For instance, one problem with a direct democracy is that people tend to want more services without wanting to pay for them. In a representative democracy, a lack of services or a lack of financial stability can both be punished by the electorate, making the representatives TEND to be more responsible (although many would argue this point about politicians).
But where does the true power lie? In a democracy, the true power lies with the people. This is why one of our favorite presidents declared our government "of the people, by the people, for the people." Complaints about the government tend to fall on the shoulders of the people themselves. And people talking about reducing the power of the government really are talking about shifting power from the people to predators, be they other nations, corporations, or even individual people. With a weak government, individuals or small groups with power are the ones that benefit, and the weak lose. Civilization becomes weaker as the strong are more able to prey on the weak.
The Problem With Government
The problem with any government is it is only as good as the governors. In the case of a democracy, the governors are the voters. In order for the governed to gain more power, the governors need to be weakened. This, to me, is why education is waning in the United States. As people become ignorant, they are more easily swayed. The true power in the United States is a well-educated electorate. In order for voters to retain their power, they must have information, the education to process that information, and the ability to apply that knowledge by voting. The dangerous representatives that should be removed from office are those that try to disrupt any point of this power of the people.
We need a strong press to provide information, but they need to be monitored. Attacking the press as a whole is a sign of someone that wants to remove an obstacle to his or her power. Sure, there are bad actors in the media, but attacking all press as a problem is like attacking all police instead of individual bad actors (or individual bad agencies). How can we tell if an attacker is trying to increase personal power instead of pointing out a bad actor? Evidence. The attacker must provide evidence of SYSTEMIC misinformation. Does the attacker use a few examples out of many? Were they mistakes or actual errors? As a voter, you need to find your own trusted sources, but you must keep an open mind. Investigate if someone attacks one of your sources. But if the source passes the test, perhaps don't consider that attacker as a good source in the future (the boy that cried 'wolf').
We need a strong public education system in order to provide the ability to problem solve and apply information in a logical way. School needs to provide intellectual tools to everyone to a certain standard. Every person should be able to make useful decisions based on given information. How can we have a useful jury if they can't apply the law? How can we have a free market if people are susceptible to propaganda? A good representative wants to provide everyone with these tools. This means that classes should be available for the general public that teach HOW to think, not WHAT to think. You can tell a bad representative if they target public education as something that needs to be diminished.
We need access to voting. It needs to be easy to vote. There shouldn't be lines, there shouldn't be fees, the ballots should be obvious. A group that wants more power for themselves and less for the people is obvious when they promote obstacles to legal voting. If an ID is required, they should be easily obtained without cost. The onus should be on the government to prove that an individual isn't viable, not on the person to prove they ARE viable. It is a serious crime to commit voter fraud or even registration fraud. If someone signs up, but he or she isn't viable, they can be imprisoned. For a single vote, that isn't usually worth the risk, which is why instances of fraud are so improbable. But that isn't the same as impossible. If there is a concern about fraud, the solution is to investigate, not make the process more difficult. A bad representative is one that wants to make voting harder to do.
We need government in order to provide civilization (protection of the weak). In order to protect the power of the people, the people need to be informed, educated enough to apply the information, and vote. We the people need to be wary of agencies that try to undermine our power (including ourselves). Be informed (and protect yourself against those that would misinform), be a problem solver (take online classes in logic or reasoning, or local college courses), and VOTE (and fight against those that would make it harder to vote).