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Why Is Government Necessary

Why are governments necessary? What are the essential purposes of government?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Government is necessary because human beings aren't angels. Almost everyone is a mixture of good and bad, and, one could argue, it's the bad side of human nature that needs to be restrained by the power of government. Otherwise, there'd be complete anarchy, with the strong dominating the weak, the evil exploiting the good, and a regression to the kind of primitive existence led by humans in their prehistoric state. Without government, everyone would be able to do as they pleased, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Government is also needed to arrange the life of a community along strategic lines. Even the smallest community needs to plan for the future. But, as everyone tends to be concerned with their own business, it's impossible for individuals, either alone or in small groups, to develop the kind of strategic overview necessary to plan ahead for vital social needs such as transportation infrastructure, national defense, and disease control. Only government, in whatever shape or form it takes, has the ability to do this.

Additionally, only government can carry out certain functions whose fulfillment is a necessary precondition for the operation of any society worthy of the name. As well as national defense, which we've already mentioned, governments exist to provide a system of justice, as well as a police force capable (at least in theory) of maintaining order and stability through fighting crime.

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Gracie O'Hara eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Governments are necessary once people live together in communities larger than extended families and thus evolved in forms that had many of the essentials of modern governments during the neolithic period. They exist to handle necessary forms of cooperative endeavor and to resolve conflicts in a way that limits disruption.

On the most basic level, even a community of a few hundred people needs some degree of formal cooperative organization. If one family dumps raw sewage upstream of the drinking water of other families, that causes problems. Many issues like irrigation, fire fighting, maintaining streets or roads, building aqueducts, and banding together for mutual aid in self defense or...

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