Government Who Needs It

Government Who Needs It?

We often hear that we are over governed, that politics is something people would rather do without. Some would go so far as to say that if we did away with governments and politicians people could then get on with the important things in life.

So why do we need governments? Could we exist without them?

Without government, life becomes very difficult. By nature people prefer to live in groups or communities rather than on their own. In order for people to live harmoniously together there must be an established set of rules about what is acceptable and what is not.

Imagine a group of people shipwrecked on a desert island. In order to survive and hopefully be rescued, the group would need to set down some rules. Rationing of food, allocation of tasks and safety precautions would be some of the immediate concerns for this group.  

If everyone was left to their own devices the weak or sick would probably die, with only the strong surviving.

On the desert island the group may choose a leader or one person might seize control. The person seizing control would need some means to make the rest obey, perhaps by withdrawing food or threatening physical harm. The leader chosen freely by the group has more chance of being followed without having to threaten the group. This is referred to as legitimate power. When we elect governments to make decisions on our behalf this is also known as legitimate authority.

If There Were No Rules

In our community, if people were able to do exactly what they pleased with no concern for anyone else then the same thing would happen. Imagine your own household, school or a game of basketball without rules. Picture the chaos and accidents on our roads if we had no road rules.

Therefore, we have governments to make decisions concerning what is best for the general welfare of our community. Governments do not only make decisions concerning what members of the community can and cannot do, they also make decisions on how best to use the resources available to provide the best possible lifestyle for members of that community.

In Australia, we have three spheres of government making these decisions, Commonwealth, State and Local Governments.

For all spheres of government we have regular elections so if people are not happy with decisions the current government is making, they have the opportunity to vote in another group of people to form a new government.

Between elections, groups and individuals will often be active in trying to convince governments to change suggested policies or create new policies if they are not happy with the current situation.

Politics is All Around Us

"Politics" is a fact of life. Whether we like it or not it is happening at every moment and in every aspect of community life. Politics is about making decisions. It is about power and influence.

Take the case of two young children squabbling over the one toy. The bigger child gets the toy, the younger one misses out. In this case strength decided the issue. On the other hand if the parent sees the dispute both may miss out with the toy being put out of reach. As a compromise the parent may suggest some method of taking turns. The parent is using power and influence to resolve the matter.

In the decision making that takes place in your household, such as who takes the rubbish out, looks after the younger members of the family, walks the dog or which show on television will be watched, power and influence or politics will be taking place. Generally, for the sake of peace, compromises are made along the line of, "I'll put the rubbish out, if you walk the dog".

Decisions Usually Mean Compromises

Similarly when governments make decisions they are continually making compromises. You cannot please everyone all of the time. Pleasing the majority most of the time is the best that can be expected.

Our system of government is often described as being democracy. To be precise we are in fact a parliamentary democracy. Democracy means "rule by the people". However because it would be a very slow and costly exercise for people to vote on every single issue, we elect individuals to decide such matters on our behalf. We elect representatives for each of our three spheres of government - Federal, State and Local Government.

Things for further investigation

Find out who is eligible to vote in Federal, State and Local Government elections.

When will you be required to enrol to vote? It is up to each individual to ensure they are enrolled to vote. Find out how you enrol to vote.

In Australia, for State and Federal Government elections, voting is compulsory .What are some of the main arguments for and against compulsory voting?

When is it compulsory for people to vote in Local Government elections and when is voting optional?

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