How do the law and government affect me?

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There is an interesting phenomenon in this country whereby some people believe that because they are of a certain age, they should no longer be responsible for paying certain types of taxes. It is particularly prevalent in the paying of property taxes that go to provide public school services. These folks claim that because they don't have children that attend public school, they should not have to pay a fee that includes education. Another variation on this idea comes from people who have school-age children, but because their children are home-schooled or attend private school, they claim they are double-taxed because they are paying for education (public school) services they don’t use while having to pay private tuition for their children.

Without laws and government to enforce them, people could pick or choose to opt in or opt out for services that are too expensive for one person to pay for. This example illustrates how laws and government work together to benefit everyone, whether they use a specific component of government services or not.

Think for a moment how often you encounter some type of government-provided service. Think of the sidewalks we walk on, the streets we drive or ride on, and the crosswalks, traffic lights, and traffic signs we encounter daily; these are probably all paid for by taxes collected by the government. The next time you receive a bill for your cell phone, look at how much of the cost of using the phone goes to pay 911 emergency services and other infrastructure that is required to make cell phones work.

Almost every purchase you make is taxed with the amount being returned to the citizens to fund parks, recreation areas, and other government services. The cleanliness of the water you drink and the air you breathe is the result of a government-enforced law requiring specific standards of cleanliness be maintained. The same holds true of the food you eat and medicine prescribed by a doctor. The cost of teachers, police officers, emergency services, and firemen are all provided by the government. Hopefully, you will never need the services of a police officer, but whether you do or don’t, they continue to protect you twenty-four hours a day. Much of our daily lives are protected, constructed, maintained, or impacted by government services and laws that we don’t see and take for granted. Laws play an essential role in government.

Laws form a government, and the government uses laws to organize the activities to assure citizens’ funds are available for all of the things mentioned earlier. Without laws and the government to enforce them, there would be chaos. Basic transactions such as the sale of property or automobiles would not be possible. People could openly discriminate against others. Without laws and the government to enforce them, anyone could commit a crime without fear of penalty. No one would be safe, and no one would have somewhere to adjudicate a claim against someone who wronged them without laws and the government. So while you may not feel the direct impact of laws and government, they do have an effect on your life.

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As an eNotes educator not personally acquainted with you, I cannot say what aspects of law and government affect you personally; that is something only you would know.

Laws affect every person living in a country. Criminal laws, such as those prohibiting murder or theft, ensure penalties for those who violate the law. Laws also regulate the use of various substances—the use and sale of alcohol and tobacco is restricted—and various other substances such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana are either illegal or legal only in specific areas under specific conditions. Laws also regulate many professions; it is illegal to practice medicine without a license, for example.

Governments affect the lives of citizens through the laws they make. Governments also create policies which may create a social safety net and minimize income inequality or which may increase inequality and favor rent-seeking. Governments collect taxes which pay for many common goods such as roads, sanitation, fire departments, policing, and infrastructure. 

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The law and the government do not always affect each person in the same way.  Some people are affected more and others less.  However, the law and government do affect us all in some common ways.

Most importantly, the law and government affect us by allowing us to live in a society where we are not related to most other people and we generally do not even know who they are.  Without law and government, we rely on the goodwill of others to keep us safe.  This is only possible in a small community where everyone is connected in some way.  In larger towns and cities, there is a need for law and government.  Law and government make sure (or at least make it much more likely) that other people will respect our right to our life, our liberty, and our property.  They protect us and allow us to live a relatively safe life.

The other side of this, however, is that the law and the government constrain our actions.  In return for government protecting our life, liberty, and property, we have to give up some of our freedom to act as we wish.  Government and law affect us all by limiting what we may and may not do.  Because of the government and the law, I cannot drive my car as fast as I wish.  I cannot dispose of my garbage by throwing it in a vacant lot.  I have to obey all of the laws the government lays down.  We are all affected in this way as well.

Finally, some of us are more affected than others by government.  Many people work for the government and thus owe their living to the government and the law.  Some people work in industries that are highly regulated by the government.  They have to be much more aware of the laws than other people do.  In these ways, the government and the laws affect us all in some similar ways, but there are also individual differences in the extent of these effects.

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