IB: What is the purpose and function of government

Anchor quote

“We are all servants of the laws in order that we may be free.” – Cicero

“An unjust law was not really a law at all.”
– Cicero, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and the framers of the U.S. Constitution

“Where the law is subject to some other authority and has none of its own, the collapse of the state, in my view, is not far off; but if law is the master of the government and the government is its slave, then the situation is full of promise and men enjoy all the blessings that the gods shower on a state.” – Plato

The purpose of government

The primary purpose of governments are to create and enforce rules for the people. The rule of law sets the baseline structure of Western Civilizations.

We, the people, are social. We, the people, work better as a collective unit. We, the people, created a system of laws that are applied to all the people of the land. No person is above the law. Our laws, created by the people, for the people, are the codes established to govern the nations we live in.

“It is ,we, the people; not gods, kings, queens, emperors, rulers, royalty, corporations, or the business elite, that establish the laws we live under.” -Sera 

The function of government: 

  • protects the people from internal conflict with each other.
  • protects the people from external conflict with outside groups.
  • protects the people from economic conflict.
  • protects the people from public service conflict. **see below**

Modern government provides the rules, access, and enforcement to certain services that should be available to all people regardless of income.   

Government Public Service Sectors:

  • Electricity
  • Education
  • Emergency services
  • Environmental protection
  • Fire service
  • Gas and oil
  • Health care
  • Law enforcement
  • Military
  • Postal service
  • Public broadcasting
  • Public library
  • Public security
  • Public transportation
  • Public housing
  • State schools, known as “public schools” in many countries, but not all.
  • Social services
  • Telecommunications
  • Town planning
  • Waste management
  • Water supply network 

Types of Government societies

Societies which functions under the rule of law:

Federalism : the idea of a federal organization of more or less self-governing units

Democracy : *a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them

Republic : *a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them

Anarchisma political philosophy that advocates self-governed societies based on voluntary institutions.

The counterpart to being ruled by law is being ruled by man. The rulers or the people in positions of power are the ones who govern the people in this society. This type of government is easy to understand. The laws are whatever the ruler says they are to be. Since the rulers are above the law, the people can not hold them accountable.

Societies which functions under the rule of man:

monarchy : an a political theory favoring unlimited authority by a single individual who usually inherits the authority.

oligarchy : a political system ruled by a few people

theocracya political unit ruled by a deity or by officials thought to be divinely guided.

authoritarian an absolute ruler.


the system by which a state or community is controlled.

the system or form by which a community or other political unit is governed.

(a nautical borrowing from Greek) kybernan: to steer or pilot a ship, direct as a pilot.

(latin) gubernare: to direct, rule, guide, govern.

Rule of law:
the legal principle that law should govern a nation

a principle or condition that customarily governs behavior

(latin) regula- straight stick, bar, ruler; figurative interpretation- a pattern, a model.

legal document setting forth rules governing a particular kind of activity.

(old norse) lag- literally “something laid down, that which is fixed or set.


Rule of Law