As the essay declares the greatest challenge, though, is how to define and interpret the functions of government. For as many items on Jefferson’s ambitious list, just as many political positions, interpretations, definitions, and distortions have taken us away from the “original” intent. This is because people disagree on what government should do.
This paper stresses that others focus on social order and power: as Social Studies and History teacher Mr. David Sedivy instructs, the government’s role involves “maintaining social order, services, and enforcement” and “ensuring a “balance of power.” Others take a more concrete approach, naming the government’s role as that which includes functions because “they work, they provide for the common good, they promote our security, and they help us improve our lives;” they are, says CIO Sam Johnson, “…only those things we must have and can't afford to do independently. The list of these items is short: Roads, Education, Safety.” Still others claim that specific areas need the focus, as Anthony Gregory reports, writing, “…most limited-government libertarians say that the only legitimate function of government, in a free society, is the criminal justice system.” While many over time and across the nations maintain or have maintained that the purpose of government is to protect, as Arlen Specter said, to ensure the general good of citizens, as Edmund Burke once suggested of Parliament, or to insist on human-ness, as Anthony Trollope claimed, still others are bitterly sarcastic about government’s purpose, identifying in mock detail the abuses of such power.