The Role of Government


A government, derived from the Latin term gubernare (“to steer”), is an agency or body that has been empowered with power to manage a political entity, usually referred to as a State. Several different forms of government are recognized today, including democracies, totalitarian regimes, and authoritarian systems along with many hybrid variants.

Governments have a broad range of responsibilities, from maintaining strict security at borders to addressing social inequality and market failures. Most problems can only be addressed after they happen, however, resulting in governments that often feel reactive rather than proactive. Governments have a duty to protect their citizens, and they must provide funding for an efficient police force, judicial system, and well-trained defense force. They must also ensure the health and prosperity of their people by investing in public education, infrastructure, and healthcare.

Many scholars and philosophers have argued that the purpose of government is to provide for citizens’ welfare, and they have come up with various answers to this question. Philosopher Thomas Hobbes, for example, argued that without some form of order and governance, humans would be likely to kill each other over resources and that the duty of a society is to protect its citizens. John Locke built upon this idea, arguing that citizens have a natural right to life, liberty, and property, with the obligation of governments to safeguard the rights of its citizens. Later, David Hume used the concept of “public goods” to argue that the duty of a government is to ensure access to common goods such as clean water and air.

While government’s role has changed over time, it is still important to the everyday lives of its citizens. Many people depend on government to make laws that limit crime and other dangerous behaviors, and to provide services such as education and healthcare. People may not always agree on what those laws and services should look like, but they all recognize that government is necessary to help them live their lives.

A government must be accountable to its citizens, and the way it achieves this is through a system of checks and balances. It must ensure that decisions are based on what the majority of voters want while respecting the opinions of the minority. It must maintain a limited government, and it must include a Bill of Rights to prevent officials from abusing their powers. Moreover, it must promote economic freedom while ensuring that individuals can own private property and businesses. The right of citizens to know what goes on in their government is another key element. Therefore, governments must release documents and statistics that explain how they arrive at their decisions. The public’s right to this information is known as transparency. These elements of government are what make it possible for humans to live together peacefully. They are the foundation of civilization, and they allow humankind to progress. They also allow us to learn from the mistakes and successes of others so we can continue to improve our world.