ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What Is Government and Why Is It Necessary?

Updated on April 3, 2012
US President, Barack Obama
US President, Barack Obama | Source
US Speaker of the House, John Boehner
US Speaker of the House, John Boehner | Source

What Is Government?

Is government necessary? Why do people have government? Could we do without it? These are questions that people often ask. There are several definitions of the term government, but most deal with the idea of authority over a group that is governed. The source of government varies by political unit. Before the rise of the nation-state, many political units tended to be small and locally based. There were, of course, large empires, such as those led by Rome, Greece, Persia, and various Chinese dynasties, that had imperial control over large expanses of territory.

Prior to the eighteenth century, most of these small states and large empires had a single ruling authority embodied in a king/emperor. With the rise of the United States and republican governments, the function of government expanded to include more people. There had been a few republics before, but most were short-lived and were located in smaller regional entities. It could also be argued that the British system was a representative government before the American system arose, but there was nonetheless a monarchy present (as it still is), and suffrage was very limited. Today, many governments are representative of the people living in a nation, at least in theory.

Governments can range from autocracies (rule by one) to democracies (rule by the people). Monarchies and dictatorships would both fall under the autocratic rubric. Other forms of government include plutocracies (rule by wealth), oligarchies (rule by a few), republics (a representative government, in which representatives are elected by the people), and a democracy (rule by the people). While many today speak of democratic governments, pure democracies are unusual in large political units like nation-states because all constituents would need to be involved in every situation. More common are republican governments in which the people theoretically rule through their elected representatives.

Governmental functions include legislation/lawmaking, execution of the laws, and judicial decisions. In a monarchy, a king/queen or their chosen appointees hold these powers. In more democratic forms, the citizens have an opportunity to influence those who hold these powers to a greater degree. In the United States, the government refers to the entire apparatus given the charge of governing the nation, while in parliamentary nations, the government is more closely tied to the particular prime minister/president and the party that controls the government at a given time, i.e, the Thatcher government or the Labor government.

Why Is Government Necessary?

Most people argue that some form of government is necessary, although their reasoning may differ. Those from a Christian background tend to argue that the problem of original sin and human depravity make government necessary. Others may argue that the complexity of life and interpersonal/international relations make some form of government necessary for adjudicating conflicts, protection of personal property from others within the group, or from invaders from outside the group.

People tend to differ on their view of how active governments should be. Those from a libertarian viewpoint argue that the state should only protect such things as life, liberty, and property, while leaving all other issues for private individuals to handle. Even people who argue for a more vigorous state vary in their opinion of how much government is necessary.

A few dispute the need for any government. Anarchists want no laws or government to impede their society, although this has not been officially tried on a large scale.

Governments are beneficial for promoting internal improvements such as roads, canals, ports, airports, and railroads. They are also beneficial for adjudicating disputes between individuals through court systems. Governments have traditionally been responsible for defending their subjects or citizens from outside harm. While some may argue that no government is necessary, a group consensus on a given situation that refers to precedent would still be a form of self-government on a small scale. The chaos that would ensue if everyone did what they wanted all of the time would necessitate the formation of government to protect the innocent and correct or punish the wrongdoers. While governments can be oppressive, in the opinion of Henry David Thoreau or Thomas Paine, they are necessary evils.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Mick Beet profile image

      Mick Bert 

      4 years ago from Australia

      To help solve this

      Thanks great hub CP

    • fpherj48 profile image


      4 years ago from Carson City

      An excellent explanation of "government." Ours is much TOO BIG! There's much we could/should do to change things, make them better & more positive FOR the American people. However, it's all a long hard process that requires the expertise & determination of the majority. I maintain faith & hope that one day we'll be successful~~for our own good & that of the entire Nation.

    • cprice75 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Price 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, John. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. You are correct in your argument on Hobbes and Locke. You can't get to thinkers like Marx and Smith without building upon their understanding of political science. You also need capitalism for Marx, but that's another story altogether.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 

      8 years ago from Winter Haven, FL

      Great hub. I think Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau are three of the most important forerunners to modern political science. I don't think Adam Smith, Hegel, Proudhon or Marx could have been without them three.

      Voted up


    • cprice75 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Price 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the vote of support and the share.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      An excellent Hub, very well written and easy to understand. Thank you for undertaking this topic. Great job. SHARING


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)