Function of Law and Government in Society
It is an unarguable fact that the most important functions in any society are those that are played by the law and government that administer a society. There exists an important interrelationship between law and governance and it is very difficult, if not impossible, for one to do without the other. Effective governance works hand in hand with competent legal establishment to ensure that in additional to bringing about sustainable development in the economic, social, cultural and political structures in society, the freedoms and rights of individuals in the society are protected.
These two different dynamics, government and law, each play a very instrumental function in whichever society that they are found. In discussing the role of either the law or government, it is important to analyze where the two dynamics get their power. This necessitates that we define the terms; in simple language, government refers to an institution composed of a few individuals who have been selected by members of the society to carry out certain authorized duties on behalf of those who selected them. Defined in this manner, it is obvious that on its own capacity the government has no inherent powers to do anything; whatever authority it exercises is vested upon it by the people who form it. This is exemplified in a statement found in the US constitution which asserts that ‘We the people….. do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America’ (Benson, 1968).
According to Takenaka () an effective government must also fulfill the proper function of making sure that its subjects are provided with goods and services that they require to function efficiently and lead normal lives. The government should also investigate any incidents or occurrences that adversely affect the governed and come up with effective solutions. More over, a government institution is also tasked with the responsibility of distributive social justice through the established legal frameworks.
The government has several functions in the society. The fundamental function of any government is to make sure that the rights, liberties and privileges of the people who are governed are safeguarded at all costs. For the government to fulfill this role effectively, it is important that the government officials understand the origin of the human rights and freedoms. The rights and freedoms enjoyed by an individual can be classified into two: those that occur naturally, also referred to as god ordained rights, and those that are planned by a man for political purposes. The problem with such principles is the fact that if the government is perceived as politically having the power to allow individuals rights and freedoms, then it also must have the power to deny or withhold them from whomever they choose; this is a very dangerous philosophy, especially in autocratic governments (Benson, 1968).
In such light, the proper function of a government is perceived as that within the sphere of influence of individual citizens. The government, therefore, rather than control the public like happens in many contemporary societies, ought to be supervised by the public which established it. As a consequence of this, one to the fundamental proper roles of government is the protective role; the government is expected to utilize all resources at its disposal to safeguard the governed from bodily harm, destruction of their property as well as from being subjected to forced labor. In addition to this, the proper government is expected to establish and sustain judicial systems which are vested with the responsibility of listening to disputes among the governed and acting as arbitrators. Finin (2006) states that whereas the government plays the very significant proper function of making sure that there are legal decrees to administer the governed, it cannot legislate moral laws. In society there are two forms of regulations: legal laws and moral laws. Legal laws are normally engraved in a nation’s constitution and apply to every single member of the society; contravening legal rules may cause an individual to be punished by the set justice systems. Moral laws, on the other hand, are applied voluntarily or by being pressured by members of the community; they are usually decided by what a society considers to be ethically acceptable.
According to Bastiat (2007) the law is an important aspect of any society; every man has the right to defend himself from any harm or plunder directed towards them and this is best done by the application of agreed upon and established set of guidelines that apply to every member of the society in question. There can never be any order and regulation in a society where there are no set of guidelines to guide the behavior and conduct of the society’s members. The law has many functions which it fulfills in society. As already implied, the most important function of any set of decrees in a society is to uphold the rights, liberties and freedoms of every member in the society. As the famous quote by Martin Luther King Junior states, ‘ It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also’ (King et al, 2007). In this statement King was acknowledging the very important truth that despite the fact that it is very difficult to constitutionalize ethics and morals, the behavior and conduct of people in the society can be effectively managed by the existence of effective laws. Despite the fact that the law may not make people love each other, it prevents them from discriminating upon, causing damage and taking away each other’s lives.
As stated by Finin (2006), the existence of law in a society brings about stability. Stability refers to the state of constancy in a society in which individuals can confidently engage in different ventures aimed at improving their living standards without any fear of intimidation or attack. Constancy and stability in any society can only be ascertained by the existence of effective laws. As stated by Bastiat (2007) laws act as guidelines which set up frontiers at which an individual’s actions can be affirmed as being a crime or a violation of the agreed upon societal guidelines and principles. In our legal systems today, it is not uncommon for criminals undergoing trial to defend themselves by claiming that they were unaware that their actions were criminal; the law therefore acts as a dividing line as well as a guide on what is wrong or right in any society.
Conclusively, law and government have proper functions that they fulfill in society. Apart from making sure that there is law and order, the government of any society, in collaboration with the established legal decrees, makes sure that the rights and liberties of individuals are upheld and that there is peace and stability. A society without any form of governance or law would be too chaotic to function effectively.
Bastiat, F. (2007): ‘The Law’ Ludwig Von Mises Institute
Benson, E. T. (1968): ‘The Proper Role of Government: The Eisenhower Administration’
Retrieved on 15th June 2012 from http://www.latterdayconservative.com/ezra-taft-benson/the-proper-role-of-government/
Finin, K. (2006): ‘The Importance of Law in Society’ Retrieved on 15th June 2012 from
King, M. L., Carson, C., Luker, R., and Russell, P. A. (2007): ‘The Papers of Martin Luther
King, Jr: Advocate of the social gospel, September 1948-March 1963’ University of California Press
Takenaka, T. (2008): ‘Patent Law and Theory: A Handbook of Contemporary Research’ Edward