The Role of Government


Brexit. The shock win of Donald Trump. In light of the political volatility of our times, it would be useful for us to review the role of the government and why it is important for the people to honour the government, and the government to honour the people.

Below is an excerpt from page 225 – 229 of our second book, Winning with Honour, which addresses what is the role of government:

“People get the government they deserve. The job of the government is to provide the goods and services that people cannot provide for themselves because they lack organisation and scale to get things done effectively and efficiently.

“The fundamental idea should therefore be that people should first take the responsibility to provide for themselves to the greatest extent possible—this way they best exercise personal choice and are best able to satisfy themselves.

“Where the people decide to hand the responsibility to the government, they have to accept that mass provision by the government can never be as responsive and individually-satisfying as if the people were to provide for themselves. The government can provide funding for social services, for example, but the government can never provide the human touch and the human heart so necessary for many of the social services to be effectual.

“The basics of defence and security, law and justice, clearly belong to government; what else the government should do is a matter of implicit or explicit agreement between the government and the people.

“But for the system to work ultimately to the benefit of the people, the people must be able to trust the government, as must the people honour the institutions of the state as existing for the good of the people. If the institutions are torn down or destroyed, what results is anarchy and confusion, the very antithesis of what is in the best interest of the people.

“Citizens of course need the maturity to distinguish between the institutions that must be upheld to serve their need for security and justice, and the people whom they choose to lead the institutions.

“In a democracy, the people choose at regular intervals whom they wish to have to lead their government. In this way, the citizens are able to give direct feedback on what they have been pleased or displeased with, and what they hope for the future. A government that is not responsive to the desires of the people will be taken down in due course.

“Yet the government carries the responsibility to lead not just the current generation and also meet their needs, but also consider and plan for the needs of future generations to be met, so that they will leave a worthy legacy for the generations to come.

“It is a difficult call for the government of the day to provide for the generations to come and do what it believes to be right for the future, even though it may be unpopular for the current generation.

There is a demand for the government to have a superior ability to communicate, and there needs a maturity on the part of the citizenry to think beyond their immediate needs. A failure on both fronts will result in a government that is populist in policy and practice, to the detriment of the long-term interest of the people. The government will then be led by the people whom the government is supposed to lead. Such a failure is likely to result when the people do not honour the institution of government, and the government fails to honour the hopes and desires of the people.

“Governments of countries, as opposed to local government, also have to be concerned about the global environment and the standing of their countries in the global community of nations. This pertains to peace, security, foreign policy, and diplomacy. It also pertains to cross-border issues such as the environment and illegal immigration.

“Short-sighted policies often result in ‘beggar thy neighbour’ approaches. The principle of honouring promises and honouring people in other countries applies here, just like the principle of honouring others applies in families, communities, and organisations. Looking after the environment, conserving forests and water resources, preserving flora and fauna as a heritage for future generations, are all cases in point.

Must short-sighted self-interest prevail or can far-sighted enlightened self-interest hold sway instead? Can Honour rule the individual, the family, the community, the organisation, and the nation?”

As “The Honour Circle” reflects…it is really up to us.


Photo Credit: The Straits Times


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