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Thoreau begins his essay by establishing his definition of what a government is, then examining what basis a government has for exerting authority or power, and finally proposing what he considers as the limits that should be applied to governmental power. Through all of these positions, he is explaining how he distinguishes between a government and a group of people.
Government is defined as "only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will." Thoreau proposes that people will come to need no outside organization to carry out the will of society as a whole or of a particular community, at which point governments will become completely unnecessary. People, in his view, will come to be responsible for conducting their affairs with reason and respect toward each other, and the interference and domination of governmental bodies will be unneeded. In the meantime, "the government is best which governs least."
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