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Government refers to:

  • the means by which a society or community is governed
  • the organization whose function is to govern
  • the act of governance

There is considerable disagreement about whether a "government" must necessarily be hierarchical and coercive.

There is also disagreement about the proper role of government. The following list seems to comprise the main views:

  • to protect the weak from the strong.
  • to enforce voluntary contracts
  • to protect the few from the many
    • this can either mean protecting minorities from those who would abuse them, which is consistent with protecting weak from strong, or it can mean protecting the rich from the poor, which in modern society would be consistent with enforcement (possibly selective) of voluntary contracts.
  • to protect citizens' "natural rights" (as defined by whoever is setting up the government)
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