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A brief look at forms, functions and purposes of government. introduction to Government. Mr. Rhodes. “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” James Madison. Nation and State.

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A brief look at forms functions and purposes of government

A brief look at forms, functions and purposes of government

introduction to Government

Mr. Rhodes

A brief look at forms functions and purposes of government

“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

James Madison

Nation and state

Nation and State

  • A nation is a sizeable group of people who share common characteristics that bind them together, such as religion, language, ethnicity, shared history, etc.

  • A state is a political entity which shares characteristics that include governance, territory, sovereignty and population.

  • A nation-state is a combination of the two and lends stability to a state.

Characteristics of a state

Characteristics of a State

  • Population—the more stable the population is and the more they have in common, the more stable the state.



  • Well-defined boundaries lead to stability.

  • Territory can be acquired by purchase, war or treaty, or some combination of these.

  • What are the boundaries of the United States?

  • How have we acquired territory?



  • Sovereignty refers to the authority to rule without answering to a higher authority. That authority can come from various sources (i.e., the people, a divine power, force, etc.)

    • In the U.S., we believe in popular sovereignty.



  • A state will have some form of government.

  • This will vary from state to state.

What is government

What is Government?

  • The authority which makes laws for the benefit of the people and fulfills the purposes of government.

  • Important distinction is that the rules/laws and decisions made by the government are binding on all those who live within the state, not just the citizens.

Origins of the state government

Origins of the State/Government

  • Evolutionary theory

    • States and formal governments evolved when people began to settle into areas and conflicts arose between different families/groups

  • Examples?

Force theory


  • A strong leader comes in and subjugates those living in an area under his rule

  • Examples?

Divine right theory

Divine Right Theory

  • Also called Divine Right of Kings

  • The leader gets his authority to rule from a divine being

  • Range from authority granted by deity to ruler IS a deity

  • To defy the ruler is to defy God or the gods

The social contract

The Social Contract

Government is a contract between the ruler and the ruled with certain obligations for both parties.

Limited government

Limited Government

The philosophy that government does not have absolute authority.

Limitations are placed on the government by some outside force; usually the people and/or the law.

Thomas hobbes born 1588

Thomas Hobbes, born 1588

Thomas hobbes

Thomas Hobbes

Born in London in 1588

Educated at Oxford in the classics

Travelled abroad to study science and forms of government

In 1651, wrote “Leviathan”

Wrote at the end of the English Civil War

Strong support of absolutism and monarchy



People are naturally wicked, selfish creatures

Left alone, chaos will reign and life will be nasty, short and brutish

Governments are created to protect people from their natural state of evil

Countries need authority figures to provide leadership and direction

A brief look at forms functions and purposes of government

  • Hobbes did not believe that that there should be many limits on government, but he did not think that a sovereign could/should do anything that would injure his or her subjects.

State of nature

State of Nature

  • The philosophy regarding how humans would act in their most basic state without a civil government.

  • Hobbes believed the state of nature in which man lived before the formation of society was founded on a savage selfishness, which drove man to obtain pleasure without concern for justice or mercy toward other men.

State of war

State of War

Idea stems fromHobbes’ belief that in the state of nature, people were always at war with one another, a war of all against all. Each individual was endowed with the right to do anything they pleased and people were in constant fear for their lives.

Unalienable rights

Unalienable rights

Rights that cannot be taken away from anyone, for example freedom of speech.

Equal rights

Equal rights

The belief that all persons, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, age, etc., have the same rights as everyone else.

The problem we all live with norman rockwell

“The Problem We All Live With”Norman Rockwell

Questions to consider

Questions to Consider:

What is happening in this painting?

Which principles of democracy are illustrated by this painting?

Flag with male symbol by dave cutler

Flag with Male SymbolBy Dave Cutler

Questions to consider1

Questions to Consider:

What is happening in this painting?

How does this painting relate to the concept of unalienable rights?

Equal rights?

Consent of the governed

Consent of the governed

The political theory that governments gain their authority from their people.

A government is not legitimate if the people do not give their consent.

June 1989 tiananmen square photographer unknown

June 1989 – Tiananmen SquarePhotographer: Unknown

Questions to consider2

Questions to Consider:

What is happening in the picture?

How does it relate to the topic of limited government?

To Consent of the Governed?

John locke born 1632

John Locke, born 1632

John locke

John Locke

Born in Bristol, England in 1632

Of the “gentry” class; father was an attorney and wanted him to become a minister

He wanted to study medicine and went to Oxford College

Heavily influenced by John Owen, the Dean of Christ College at Oxford

Owen believed in freedom from persecution for religious beliefs and moderation/compromise

A brief look at forms functions and purposes of government

In 1690, Locke wrote “Two Treatises of Government”

Said that government should be like a contract between the ruler and the people

Sovereignty resides with the people, not the ruler

People have natural rights of life, liberty and property

A brief look at forms functions and purposes of government

The role of government is to protect man’s natural rights

If the ruler doesn’t abide by the agreement, the people should overthrow him

In 1682, his ideas were seen as a challenge to the power of the monarchy and he fled to Holland for sanctuary

He will return after the Glorious Revolution and the restoration of the throne under William of Orange and his wife, Mary

Locke rejected Divine Right of Kings

Social contract

Social Contract

The idea that people join groups, and these groups make a presence known as a society.

A social contract is the compact that the people agree form the rules and conditions for membership in their society.



The belief that all persons are entitled to equal rights and treatment before the law.

George giusti 1955

George Giusti - 1955

Civilization is a Method of Living, An Attitude of Equal Respect for All Men

- Jane Addams, 1933

Questions to consider3

Questions to Consider:

How does this picture represent a social contract?

In what ways do people form social contracts today?

Do you believe that people receive equal treatment before the law? Why or why not?

Civil society

Civil Society

Occurs after people leave the state of nature. Signs of this transfer are: people act on rules of justice rather than on instinct, physical impulse is replaced by the voice of duty, and people consult reason rather than inclinations.

By entering civil society people gain civil liberty and the legal right of property in what they possess. They also gain moral freedom, making people masters of themselves.

Astronaut and u s flag on the moon

Astronaut and U.S. flag on the Moon

Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin stands facing the U.S. flag on the Moon. The rod to hold the flag out horizontally would not extend fully, so the flag ended up with a slight waviness, giving the appearance of being windblown. The flag itself was difficult to erect, it was very hard to penetrate beyond about 6 to 8 inches into the lunar soil with the flagstaff.

Question to consider

Question to consider:

What does the placement of the American flag indicate?

Who has a right to claim the moon?

What is the relationship between Rousseau’s thoughts on civil society and this image?

Jean jacques rousseau 1712 1778

Jean Jacques Rousseau1712-1778

A brief look at forms functions and purposes of government

Born in Geneva, Switzerland

His mother died shortly after he was born

Apprenticed as an engraver, but ran away to Paris at age 15 where he became a music teacher

Known as one of the Philosophes of French society (Enlightenment period)

In 1762 Rousseau published The Social Contract, a masterwork of political science that describes a just society in which liberty and legality are drawn from what he terms the general will.

A brief look at forms functions and purposes of government

  • According to Rousseau, a society consists of a collection of free and rational beings living in a given community.

  • It is the collective action of this group that determines its contribution to social development and to humanity.

  • Since only those individuals who are free and equal under the law can enter into a contract to form the general will, the general will becomes the moral force or authority, and in turn, the final arbiter of right and wrong.

Purposes of government

Purposes of Government

  • Maintain social order

  • Provide public services

  • Provide for national security and common defense

  • Make economic decisions

Systems of government

Systems of Government

  • Unitary System

    • Key decisions are made at the national level

    • Examples include Great Britain and France

  • Federal System

    • Decision making authority is split amongst different levels of government

    • Examples include the United States and Mexico

A brief look at forms functions and purposes of government

  • Confederal System (Confederation)

    • A loose union of independent states

    • Inherently weak due to the lack of enforcement power by the central authority

    • Examples include the first U.S. states, the United Nations, the Confederation of Independent States (former Soviet Union), EEU (European Economic Union)

Constitutions and government

Constitutions and Government

  • Purposes

    • Sets out ideals

    • Establishes the basic structure and defines government’s powers/duties

    • Provides the supreme law of land

  • Forms

    • Written

    • Unwritten

  • All democracies formed since 1789 have used the U.S. Constitution as a model.

Types of government

Types of Government

  • Autocracy (rule by one)

    • Monarchy

      • Absolute

      • Constitutional



  • Also, rule by one

  • Non-hereditary

  • Totalitarian

A brief look at forms functions and purposes of government

  • Oligarchy (rule based on military status or social achievement)

  • Aristocracy (rule by a privileged few)

  • Democracy (rule by the many)

    • Direct

    • Indirect (representative)

Relationship of legislative and executive

Relationship of legislative and executive

  • Presidential System

  • Parliamentary System

Characteristics of democracy

Characteristics of Democracy

  • Individual freedom

  • Majority rule with minority rights

  • Free Elections/Equality in voting

  • Competing political parties

Making democracy work

Making Democracy Work

  • Active citizen participation

  • A favorable economy

  • Widespread education

  • Strong civil society

  • A social consensus

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