January 27, 2014:
What is government?
Why do we have government?
How do governments achieve these goals?
What are the types of governments?
What is democracy?
I. What is government? One perspective
● Negative perspective
○ “Government, even in it’s best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst
state, an intolerable one” - President Thomas Jefferson
■ One of the fathers of our US government felt negatively toward it
○ “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the
problem” - President Ronald Reagan
■ Presidential campaign worked against government
● Positive Perspective
○ “Government is the enemy until you need a friend” - William Cohen,
former US Secretary of Defense and US Senator from Maine
○ “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do
together.” - Representative Barney Frank
● Is government evil? Is it something we should control? Or is it positive?
II. What is government? The THREE main characteristics
○ The institutions and procedures through which a territory and its people
○ Organizational entity
○ Made up of a number of different offices
○ When we think of government, we often think about these offices, such as
senators, courts, mayors, etc.
○ The individuals who occupy the offices that regulate the behavior of
citizens through the creation, implementation, and enforcement of rules
○ Government can be “personified” because of these individuals in these
● Only institution in society that has: Monopoly on the legitimate use of
○ Through the consent of the people, the government is widely seen as the
only institution that can:
■ Take your property ■ Restrict your movements (jail)
■ Take their lives
● “Mobs” are institutions that try to do these things, but they
are not legitimate
● Weak vs. strong government?
○ Afghanistan vs. USA
■ Both have offices, legislatures, presidents
■ Both have people working in these offices
■ Monopoly on legitimate use of violence?
■ HERE is the difference!
● US has this legitimacy whereas Afghanistan has a
competition, not a strong government system
I. What is government?
● Working definition:
○ Government is an organization that
■ Consists of a defined institutional structure
■ Is made up of individuals who occupy these structures or offices
■ Is in order to regulate the behavior of citizens
■ And it does so through a monopoly on the legitimate use of
II. Why government? - Part 1
● To produce order, reliability, and predictability
● Governments create stability for its citizens
● Thomas Hobbes’ ideas/arguments
○ “When men live without a common power to keep them all in awe...the
condition of man is a condition of war of everyone against everyone”
○ Self interest:
■ Engine of human behavior
■ Humans are solely concerned with self preservation and to seek and
maximize self gain
○ Overarching power
■ Individuals will do anything to achieve what they want
■ They may rape, pillage, and kill
■ In these societies, life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”
■ We would live in widespread violence, aggression, and constant fear
= “State of nature”
○ Governments protect ourselves from ourselves
○ One example Prof. Nteta uses to describe this theory is Black Friday ■ Black Friday shoppers are self interested and there is essentially
no one (no overarching power) to stop shoppers from pushing and
shoving each other
○ Prof. Nteta also uses “The Walking Dead” TV show as an example of a
world in which everyone is acting in a self-interested manner without
■ “There is no government, no armies, no hospitals, no police” -
Walking Dead trailer
■ People must find ways to protect themselves not only from the
zombies in the TV show, bu