Towards A Systematic Conceptualization of Government

The term “Government is a concept that people come across in discussions bordering on political organization as well as academic exercises revolving around politics. This is why it is often said that government is ingrained in our culture and so much a part of our everyday lives and that is why most of us when asked, can’t offer a very good definition of the actual word. This is to say that the concept defies a single sphere of application, hence the submission that government can best be understood when viewed from three approaches; an academic field of study, an institution of the state and the art or process of governing. Based on this standpoint therefore, lt will not be wrong to submit that government is not limited to any level of society, but practically present at all levels ranging from the individual, family, organization, institutions and the larger human society.

Government may be defined as a group responsible for holding and exercising power in the state. According to Egbe Tandu, government means the machinery by which the affairs of the state are carried out. It is also regarded as a body of persons that governs a community or unit. It sets and administers public policy and exercises executive, political and sovereign powers through institutions and laws within the state. Dr. Harold DameroW, a professor of government definition when and history, gets a bit more specific with his definition when he holds that government is ‘responsible primarily for making public policy for an entire society.’ He also mentions that government is the steering mechanism for a given society.’ It forms the policies that keep a particular society heading in the right direction.

Appadorai (2004, p.12), view government as “the agency or machinery through which the will of the state is formulated, expressed and realized”. Thus, government is considered one of the inventions of human knowledge through which the human being fulfill his desires.

However, the definition of the term “government” from the attempts made above to be complete, it must also be viewed from the perspective of its being an academic field through which people acquire knowledge and use state power for the attainment of the goals of the state, as an institution of the state which dwells on the activities of the three arms of government and as the art or process of governance which borders on the day to day administration of the state through the various ministries and departments therein the political system. Drawing from the above, the picture portrayed of the concept of government is three fold, an institution or agency of government, a process or art of governing and an academic field of study. However, to reduce government to the taste of this study, more attention will be focused on the institutional approach of the concept which sees government as a body of persons authorized to make and enforce rules or laws, settling of disputes arising within the state, organizing defense against external aggression and imposing taxes. By this, the purpose or will or the state is carried out and attained.

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The Role of Government in Human Society

The role of government has undergone a tremendous change in modern times as humans and the society in general has been on the wheel to move towards a better world, the involvement and responsibilities of governments throughout the world are getting more diverse and challenging.

The role of government justifies the essence of its existence as an attribute or component of a state. The roles include the following:

Law making

This is one important role that government plays in human society. In order to prevent chaos in the society, it is essential to have laws in place; laws ranging from small unspoken norms to ones that are complex. This function helps the society to function smoothly. Laws are made to regulate the conduct of men in the state, so that peace would be secured by each man adhering to the principles or rules. A government creates and enforces the laws that protect the rights and lives of citizens and discourages crime by punishing delinquents. Government provides an ordered, systematic way to ensure the safety of the citizenry. Without a government, people would be less likely to respect contracts and agreements with one another due to the lack of an objective way to settle disputes.

Settlement of disputes

Government serves as an arbiter between disagreeing parties in the state. When two or more parties have a dispute, they go to a court, a government entity, which decides the case and enforces its decision with the power of government. Without an impartial, authoritative arbiter with the power to enforce rulings, people would have nowhere to turn to settle disputes. In some cases, injured parties would have no way of proving wrongs against them.

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In other cases, angered individuals may take judgment into their own hands and resort to extreme measures, such as violence and vigilantism

Protection of citizens

The oldest and simplest justification for government is as protector, protecting citizens from violence. Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan describes a world of unrelenting insecurity without a government to provide the safety of law and order, protecting citizens from each other and from foreign foes.

The horrors of little or no government to provide that function are on global display in the world’s many fragile states and essentially ungoverned regions. The idea of government as protector requires taxes to fund, train and equip an army and a police force; to build courts and jails; and to elect or appoint the officials to pass and implement the laws citizens must not break.

Regarding foreign threats, government as protector requires the ability to meet and treat with other governments as well as to fight them.

Maintenance of law and order

It is one thing to make laws, and another to maintain the laws. Therefore, it is one most vital role of government to keep society intact and at peace through the maintenance of the armed force, police and the law courts for enhanced maintenance of the laws.

Provision of welfare services

The government of a state provides basic social services or social amenities such as roads, ports, education, industries, hospitals, electricity and water as well as enforces sanitation regulations among others.

The basic economic infrastructure of human connectivity falls into this category: the means of physical travel, such as roads, bridges and ports of all kinds, and increasingly the means of virtual travel, such as broadband.

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Promotion of economic development

The government through strict control of the economy helps develop it. The natural economic endowments are well harnessed for the raising and spending of revenue as well as regulating the banking and monetary system.

Maintenance of External Relations

Government helps maintain foreign relations for the conduct of mutual relations with other states. In an effort to protect and enhance the interests of an individual state especially in this complex era of globalization and interdependence, governments have chosen to be engaged internationally, especially in economic activities, such as export promotion and the attraction of direct investment, tourists, and other related activities in the interest of the citizens.

Provision of Employment Opportunities

Government plays the role of creating job areas for citizens to be employed so that they can earn a living. Governments have the ability to implement national youth employment strategies to demonstrate a shared vision, clear objectives and metrics for success that can significantly and tangibly increase youth employment. Government who have the capacity to address youth unemployment by motivating he training of young people; encourage job creation; support young entrepreneurs with proper skills and networks to be employable.

Governments can further engage private businesses to train young entrepreneur’s skills in growing industry sectors by incentivizing private business tax breaks or matching grants. Beyond government incentives, private businesses may also enhance its’ own corporate social responsibilities within the youth community.

Roles & Functions of Government in Human Society

  • Law Making
  • Settlement of Dispute
  • Protection of Citizens
  • Maintenance of Law and Order
  • Provision of Welfare Services
  • Promotion of Economic Development
  • Maintenance of External Relations
  • Provision of Employment Opportunities

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