Jun 25, 2018 in Political

The Role of Government


A government is an institution set by people to take charge of all administrative duties and social, economic and moral responsibilities over its subjects who sustain it by recognizing it. With a government in place vital political questions are given quick long term solution and this certainly helps to reduce the risks of public confusion and legislative confusion as well.  As such governance is based on certain basic principles which stipulate the role or duty of the government to its subjects. The government upholds these principles because it is answerable to the subjects yet these principles in themselves provide avenues of holding the government accountable in case of inefficiency and poor governance (Ruediger, 2006). It is the people who give power to the government and therefore it can not afford to overlook the purpose for which it was given the power. Governments that get these principles right exercise or apply them with high confidence. As such the principles are international in nature and provide basic procedure for each and every process that a government can get involved in.  The roles of the government however are broad and involve a form of contract with the governed. The government is indebted to its subjects and repays this subject through provision of services. In this essay I will look at the practical and ethical or social role of the government, the need for appropriate governance and the ethical decision making processes that sustain the government (Evans, 2006).

The practical and ethical/social obligations of government

Socially the government is charged with the responsibility of protect the human rights of its citizens. In these context the human rights may include among others the right to affirmative action, social security, health care and general social good. Human rights can be viewed as moral principles that elaborate and every body’s freedom of action.

As such the government ensures the social well being of the citizens. For instance the government through policy facilitates the creation of new job to ensure that a good number of the citizens are employed and thus are able to maintain their social stand through improved economic capability. The government also serves the people directly for instance provision of security, licensing among others. To ensure optimum provision of such essential services many governments have increased in size in terms of new departments in order to reach every citizen. As such the government seems to be serving a social contract to the people (Ruediger, 2006).

The social contract theory is an invention an invention of the 17th century refined through the 18th century to what it is currently. The theory holds that the state should serve the people since they are its main source of power. The people on the hand had are given ability to yield power to the government or with hold it. The ideas in the document however limited the individual rights, government, and the famous sovereignty.

As such the government is contracted to act for the people and protect the people from each other since by giving their power to the government they the give up their right to act to the government. According to Hobbes, on of the founders and refiners of this theory, sovereign authority must be absolute in order to protect the citizens and ensure they overcome the fears of death (death through attacks and wars). These then leads to the conclusion that the major reason for the formation of a government is to assure people of their safety.

In supporting this Hobbes bases his argument on mankind’s nature. Every body cannot be better at doing everything. One is better at doing one thing while some one else is better at a different thing. However, the positive and the negative traits that each one of them possesses add up to make them equals. As a result of these qualities the human develop fear that breeds suspicion or hatred between them. If such a condition is sustained for a long time it breeds war resulting to decline in values and morality as well as increase in injustices. Absence of a central leadership system aggravates such circumstances since men tend to act in line with their own understanding.

Humans are mainly driven to war by threes forces that can be regulated in presence of a government. The forces are fear, competition, and glory. The length of a war and consequences however are not influenced by these factors. The need to avoid wars stems from the fact that even the vector suffers losses. War destroys culture, morality, time, resources and the society.  Fear of death hate of anarchy however encourages people to bind themselves to a kind of contract that ensure peace and order as well as sustenance of mortality and societal values. Getting into such contract involves a lot of sacrifices such giving up ones rights and power to a government act on ones behalf. The existence of government thus comes into being because people would rather entrust their fate to a central point of leadership other than to their emissaries or competitors.

The need for appropriate actions in governing the people

Having been entrusted with the role of taking care of the people, the handling of government procedures involves decision making processes. The government can not just come up with an idea and force it down the throats of its subjects. This would breed resistance from the subject who may resorting to strikes and demonstration that can easily interfere with the prevailing social tranquility and even lead to the toppling of the same government (Buchsbaum,  & Joe, 2007).

As the overseer of a country well being the government is obliged to serve it citizens as a socializing agent and a promoter of morality to facilitate effective social order in the public domain.  Perpetuating morality in this case amounts to the support of the natural law and by extension the human rights.

Based on the above argument, the proper role or function of government is confined to the areas of activity in which the individual citizen has authority to act. It becomes primary a way of avoiding bodily harm deriving power from the governed, servitude among others. As such a government should not redistribute property or resources. Acts of forced charity activities on people should also be prevented since people should not be forced to do that which is against their will. Certainly, having derived its existence from the people, the government shouldn’t be treated as greater than the people.

In simple terms, the government should execute defensive activities by sustaining the police force and the military to guard against loss or destruction of property, loss of life, and loss of liberty. The military and the police handle domestic criminals with in their country as well as foreign despots.

Furthermore, in executing its proper role the government the government ensures that the following activities are sustained:

  • Establishment and maintenance of courts of law where those suspected of having orchestrated or participated in activities that undermine the human rights are subjected to fair trial and if found guilty sentenced to prison and punishment.  These courts also facilitate impartial settlement of disputes between citizens.
  • The development of monetary systems, standardization of weights as well as measures. This facilitates courts in handling of judgments concerning money; tax authorities in levying taxes on commodities and providing the citizens with a standard way of conducting business.

Optimal ethical, decision-making processes in the role of government

The functions performed by the government require making of very critical decisions that involve equally hedge costs. Such decision however needs to be guided by morals and ethics. Ethics in this essence has a lot to do with various levels of government acting as ethical individuals helping in instituting ethical organization and governance. In a broader sense, ethics can be perceived to be those standards of behavior that give guidelines on how human beings are supposed to act in various situations that they get entangled in. ethical standards are a product of five different approaches: the utilitarian approach, the rights approach, fairness and justice approach, common good approach, virtue approach and the combination of all the fore-mentioned approaches.   The utilitarian approach lays emphasis on auctioned that yield more positive benefits than negative ones or rather it seeks to balance between what is positive and what is negative. The rights approach lays emphasis on the right of individuals and seeks to protect them where as the fairness or justice approach encourages equality (Coughlan , 2005). On the other hand, the common good approach lays emphasis on contributing total benefit to every member of the society while the virtue approach, the oldest approach, seeks to ensure that decisions made are consistent to what the society deems to be right. The last approach involves combining all of the above approaches to come up with sound ethical decisions.

Making decision by the government therefore, involves specific stipulated procedure and department which play specific responsibility toward the realization of sound decisions. The process is always subject to numerous politics and debate caused by the numerous views to issues that exist in the society. Such debate may be a product of fear of the decision being made interfering with the acceptable social and political standards of a given society. The subjects are always concerned with what happens along the decision making process within the departments that make up the government and who will have jurisdiction on the final decision.  The process of decision making there for might vary in accordance to the nature of the decision. For instance the passing of simple policies may involve different procedure compared to the passing of a new law (Coughlan, 2005). 

Decisions in government can be made and adapted by the cabinet. Such decision can be made by a clique of individuals both in and out of the executive. The cabinet decision making process requires all cabinet member to be confident enough to air their point of view and make an input into the process with being afraid of retribution in case their view are not in line with what the president wants or what other member of the cabinet especially the senior member want. This kind of decision making process is democratically inclusive and the decision made will certainly be what everybody who was present at the decision making process wanted.

However the president or prime minister can still overrule such a decision irrespective of how inclusive it was. This though doesn’t happen frequently as it can spark of rebellion within the cabinet.

Different arms of the government make decision separately. The department may also come together if the decision being made affects all of them. Decision that affects a whole country may be subjected to parliamentary debate, senate, and house of common among others depending on the governance or leadership structure of the given country. Irrespective of the countries governing system, ethical decision making procedures involve the following steps

First, the problem of factor necessitating the need to pass such a decision must be clear and facilitate the establishment of the objectives to be achieved by such a decision. The objectives must be refined and classified for instance the objective may be improving a policy. The objectives should the priorities in order of importance.

Development of alternative actions to deal with the decision or realization a decision that facilitates the realization of the objective. Development of alternative actions helps to generate more ideas, insights and option on the achievement of the desired objective. Having numerous alternatives will provide the cabinet member or the members of the government department in question with a wide range of solutions to pick from while conducting decision making discussions.

The next procedure will involves proper evaluation of all the alternatives generated against the desired objectives. As such this procedure involves determining which alternatives can best facilitate the realization of each objective. The alternative that best meets the objective with minimum expenses and simplicity as well as make use of readily available solutions is the best decision. However, the decisions are not always arrived at immediately. Most often length debates have to conducted since the members of the decision making team be it a cabinet a senate or parliament have different opinions and views. Also the prevailing political environment plays a critical role in influencing the alternative that can be selected.

The alternative picked i.e. the tentative decision also must be evaluates to determine whether it has more consequences that then desired one. In some cases, the best decision to a particular issue may have server repercussions to another; this amplifies need for all inclusive decision making process that engages parties from different government departments or ministries that may be affected by a decision made by another department. The screening of alternatives for undesired consequences should thus be treated with equal magnitude as the need to meet the objectives.

Finally, the actions or alternatives decided upon are executed alongside additional actions meant to prevent any undesired consequences, more so the negatives ones. Monitoring and evaluation is also important to ensure that the decisions are implemented correctly and the desired objectives are achieved.


Certainly the role played by the government can not be underestimated. Citizens of various nations have managed to enjoy peace and tranquility to existence of a stable government the honor its duties to those who conferred power to it. The duties which include provision of security against domestic and external threat, supporting and upholding human rights and natural rights, maintenance of justice and order.  The people enjoy quality service from the government through they sustain this services through the payment of taxes. To realize this objective the government has to maintain a high level of ethical decision making. Such a kind of decision making ensures that ethical principles or approaches such as the utilitarian approach, the rights approach, fairness and justice approach, common good approach, virtue approach and the combination of all these approaches.  The decision seeks to ensure that only right actions are conducted or allowed to prevail. The decision making process also ensure that any negative product of the decision are properly handled. In summary, the role of the government is both important and sensitive.

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