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This essay gives the short explanations to various philosophers’ and historians’ views on the role and limitations of the government.

According to Thomas Hobbes, the effective government should have absolute authority. Its power should be neither limited nor divided. He argues that the powers of enforcement, legislation, adjudication, taxation etc are combined in such a way that the loss of control over one branch of power will prevent effective governance.  People should transfer their will to one person, who will be able to coordinate the whole society effectively. Therefore, absolutely no limitation should be placed on government.

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John Locke believed that everyone had natural rights, like life, liberty, and property, from the very moment of birth. The government should protect people’s natural rights. It exists to serve the people. It is an instrument of the societal will. Therefore, when the government does not satisfy the needs of people, they have a right to dismiss it and replace with the one that serves their needs better.  In Two Treatises of Government, Locke also mentions that effective government is based on the idea of separation of powers – legislative power, executive power and federative power that deals with international affairs. So, the restrictions on Locke’s government are the conformity with people’s will and the concept of separation of powers.

The Magna Carta is a document that was created to limit the power of the monarch and preserve the legal rights of ordinary people in England. The Magna established the principle of limited government, which is one of the two core principles of today’s government. The main achievements of the document were the protection from unjust punishment and loss of life. The Carta provided the basis for the idea of a “higher law” that found its reflection in the forming of Supreme Court. The idea of Hobbes’ absolutism was opposed in Carta that implemented a principle of limited government.

According to John Stuart Mill, the perfect government should balance competence and participation. He introduces the concept of representative government. Mill believed that citizen participation in government could provide the best opportunity to improve the welfare of the community. Mill argued that the functions of government should be divided into the necessary (security, protection, taxation) and optional (everything else that should not bother government). The government should prohibit such individual behavior that harms other people, for instance force, negligence or fraud. Besides, the government should eliminate the harming activity of nations, transforming destructive behavior into the improving of citizen’s facilities (do not spend energy on attacks). Ideally, the government establishes the laissez-faire principle of governance, where individual behavior is not limited till it does not harm others. Mill introduced one of the pivotal principles which is used nowadays – representative government.

Benito Mussolini was the bright example of fascism. This ideology aims to unify the entire nation through a totalitarian regime. Mussolini introduced a governmental system where the sole party – fascists have the majority seats in the parliament. The state is led by the party that supports the dictatorship of the supreme leader. Fascism’s ideology excluded any possibility of choice. This was reached through propagandistic activity, as well as through the means of war and violence. 

Similarly to Locke, Marx believed that the government should be fair and serve people. However, Marx aims the resolve a class struggle by overthrowing of the bourgeoisie society and giving power to the working class. He believes that the revolutionary party would represent the interests of the majority of the society fairly. Marx believed in communism – classless society where all means of production are held in common. Competition is eliminated in both economical and political senses. According to Marx, the perfect government is revolutionary government that won the struggle of classes.

At the heart of the modern governmental system lie two core principles of limited government and representative government. Therefore, the ideas of the Magna Carta and John Stewart Mill are developed and used today. Besides, Locke’s ideas about the separation of powers and the purpose of government (serve the people) are also of an extensive use today.

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