This paper deals with the ground state of an interacting electron gas in an external potential v(r). It is proved that there exists a universal functional of the density, Fn(r), independent of v(r), such that the expression Ev(r)n(r)dr+Fn(r) has as its minimum value the correct ground-state energy associated with v(r). The functional Fn(r) is then discussed for two situations: (1) n(r)=n0+n(r), n/n01, and (2) n(r)= (r/r0) with arbitrary and r0. In both cases F can be expressed entirely in terms of the correlation energy and linear and higher order electronic polarizabilities of a uniform electron gas. This approach also sheds some light on generalized Thomas-Fermi methods and their limitations. Some new extensions of these methods are presented.