Anywhere a group of people of any size must coexist, some form of government must be called into being. Even in a tribal society, someone is selected through particular means, be it through warrior skill or innovation, ancestral ascension or sheer luck as the de facto leader; someone purportedly capable of protecting and enhancing the life of the tribe. We say purportedly because the opportunity to fail in this capacity is ever-present and can be had for a multitude of reasons.
Protection could be from marauders lest the tribe be swallowed up by foreign, or domestic would-be conquerors. It could be an ability to provide sustenance or shelter. It could be through unique skill sets or thought processes, or simply an ability to maintain the environment which has kept the tribe viable in the past. It could be nothing more than the authority to settle disputes, or to provide counsel on matters pertaining to the group and their continued existence.
Enhancement is a relative term subject not only to the desires of the group as a whole, but also, frequently the whims of personal aggrandizement. Oftentimes in a tribal society, an overall increase in sheer numbers of beings is considered an enhancement. However, this may or may not be true in any given society depending on a varying number of outside influences and considerations.
Increases in either geographical borders or the number of people in the group impose transformations on both the structure of the group and its continued governance. Smaller groups with diverse interests tend to form as subdivisions of the larger group. Duties, talent and aptitude in addition to threats, opportunities and setbacks tend to diverge as well, due to circumstances and influences both external and internal to the group and its constituents.
At this point, if the derivatives within the group lose their common interest, or if that be subverted due to other exigencies of the smaller group(s), the larger group may become fractured into its several elements and the process begun anew from each. If the group as a whole shares one or multiple primary interests, the next logical step is to devise methods and procedures to meet those common pursuits without compromising too much or too many of the individualized interests of the subsidiaries. In a word: government.
Many competing theories and philosophies have been offered on this subject of government. The history of the world is littered with the remnants of attempts at implementation of all of them in various locales and sundry periods of time. The reasons for their failures are as numerous as the attempts. Speculation regarding those reasons and alternate courses of action available to possibly avoid that outcome comprise volumes of scholarly works.
It is at this same crossroads that any form of government must address the crucial questions that determine its future. The primary question is: How much control over the group will the constituted form of government exert? All other questions, those of laws, finances, property, provision, etc., stem from this solitary inquiry.
People, in order to survive, have several basic needs. These are: shelter from the elements, the ability to secure sustenance, and a means of procuring that which they cannot produce or obtain for themselves. Discussions abound as to whether or not other actual needs exist and it is on these discussions that the varying forms of government intersect with the group whom they represent and the groups or individuals encountered that are alien to themselves. Government then, in essence, is a contract between individuals or collectives and a centralized repository of varying levels of authority.
The discussions that follow will focus on the necessities of this contract and obligations of the parties involved, in addition to some of the specifics of providing for enactment of its terms. This is not meant to be a comprehensive work or all encompassing study of peoples’ interaction. Rather, it is intended to be the foundation for a continuing philosophical discussion of the tenets of a cohesive society and the individual’s comportment and standing within the strictures of many societal structures.
Though some attention may be given to dysfunctional societies over the course of these personal musings, these dynamic entities, by their very nature and tendencies to devolve into the previously mentioned fractured elements of the whole bear only ancillary and tangential relation to the expediencies of our contract. It is also quite difficult to utilize the term dysfunctional in current perspective; most often, such an assessment cannot be proclaimed without the benefit of the passage of time.
Given the uncertainties and acknowledging the vagaries of human cooperation, how and why are governments instituted among humankind? Is there such a thing as good government? Does the good of the many outweigh the good of the few? Or the one? Only you can provide the answers to these questions as they relate to your existence. What follows are this author’s opinions.
j. michael raymond, April, 2011