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Lewis & Quark


Why does Government Exist?

          Society and civilization as it is today and throughout history would not have been possible without leaders to guide their advance. I'd like to rewind the clock and ask the following questions: (1) What led to the creation of government/society? and (2) How has government led? Please bear in mind that for the sake of brevity, much of the history presented will have to be simplified.

          The first form of government to exist in humanity is the family, starting all the way back with Adam and Eve; Cain and Abel. Leading the family, the father made vital decisions, choosing what things they would do, or how they would react to certain issues. Over time, these families grow, and after a few generations, you start to have a tribe of people, led by elders.

          Now, a tribe of people numbering in the 50-40-30, even 20 range of members is going to have a lot of needs, like food, clothing or protection. In a nomadic lifestyle, these needs could be met, but life was still rough. When agriculture was discovered, a more comfortable opportunity presented itself, and people began to settle down in river valleys, in addition to other areas where agriculture was possible. As opposed to their time as nomads, however, if something wasn't working out, you couldn't just leave the region. After all, now there were crops, a home, and family to look after.

          And so entered the first true form of government: lead by the mighty. Whoever had the most fertile land, with the best crops was king. Food was prioritized, and so the one who had the food became the natural leader. In this way people of the river valleys began to prosper.

          Only a few areas around the world had rivers, and so people who wanted to settle down joined existing river valley communities. Once a certain number of people was reached, other needs were created. Just having the food wasn't enough anymore. Blacksmiths for weapons, craftsmen for tools, and even extraneous professions for greater comfort, like weavers or storytellers, started to appear. Settling into something looking more and more like a city, these settlers created the first societies.

          So far, I've explained how humans have created societies. From there, a government naturally begins to form. People need laws, regulations for how things are supposed to work, protection from other societies, and so much more. Society created Kings to fulfill these needs, and they took the required power (and often more than required) unto themselves.

          I could go into more depth on this, but I'd like to move on to the second question I asked: "How has government led?" Society, its needs differing based on various circumstances, has created a multitude of forms by which government has led. I have already mentioned the King, who rules a Monarchy. The power of a king is nearly dictatorial in scope, largely unchecked and authoritarian.

          Aside from Tribalism, the Family, and the Monarchy, there was one other government form which bears mentioning in the pre-republic, pre-democracy world: the Theocracy. If the early societies did not form a Monarchy after moving on from Tribalism, then it was likely they formed a Theocracy.

          But what is a Theocracy? Well, it is rule by the 'gods', or at least, the representatives of those gods. Priests took the power of responsibility over the people for themselves, ruling as fairly as they could. The Theocracy is Church and State combined in its most potent form. You could say that the Judges of Israel were a Theocracy of sorts. Other examples include the Mayan and Aztec civilizations in Mesoamerica, and the Papal State of the medieval ages.

          Moving on from the Theocracy, the next step up in terms of governance came from the Greeks. They created the polis, or, city state. Each city ruled over itself, citizens helping to decide the important issues of the day. They were democracies; the first type of self-governance in the world. Everyone gathered in a public place, like the Agora, or a hill, like the Pynx, in Athens [Everyone in this case refers to male freemen, living in a Greek polis; no slaves, and no women voted].

          Rome followed in Greece's footsteps, overthrowing their own King. They couldn't, however, by a democracy like Corinth, or Athens, for the simple reason that there were just too many people in Rome. Italy, then, became the birthplace of the Republic. Representatives ran for public office, and citizens voted for them, counting on them to represent their societal issues fairly. There was a great deal of corruption, and bribery involved, but the Roman Republic functioned for the most part with only the occasional hiccup.

          The Republic, in its modern form, is much the same as the Roman one, besides the obvious additions of a President, and other parts of legislation, in addition to the Senate. One interesting side note is that Europe created other republican governments, specifically devoted to the merchant's benefit. Countries like the Netherlands, Genoa, Florence, and Venice, were all wealthy to the extreme due to foreign trade. Merchants pressured their local governments until they essentially broke down into Oligarchies and Plutocracies, rule by the few and rule by the rich, respectively.

          I will emphasize again, this is not a complete look at the world's governments, being instead a brief overview of many major forms by which government has ruled. While often unwieldy, inefficient, and corrupt, government has taken care of many of society's problems, and is the means by which we maintain civilization throughout the world. I hope this has been insightful.
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