The Historical Function of Government

It is no accident that governments sprouted up almost everywhere with the birth of civilization. Beginning with the rise of agriculture, the most valuable capital investments became increasingly attached to land. Whereas primitive hunting-gathering tribes could protect their assets from marauders to a large degree through geographical migration, farmers and (later) city-builders needed some way to know how violent disputes over property would be likely to be resolved before they would make and benefit from investments tied to land. Although some may question whether governments are the best method of satisfying that need, it is clear that the requirement of a stable, final arbiter on the use of force within a geographical territory gave rise to historical governments—or, equivalently, permitted those governments to be tolerated and even supported by the masses. Thus early governments provided a kind of first, crude approximation to what in modern times is called the rule of law, under which conflicts are resolved according to established standards, rather than by arbitrary, capriciously administered power.      Next page

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