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CLEP English Comp. -- "That Government is Best Which Governs Least"

TWRTW106 1 / 2  
May 21, 2009   #1
I wrote this essay in 45 minutes to prepare for the English Composition Test in CLEP. Any insight would be much appreciated.

The prompt was:

Henry David Thoreau wrote in The Duty of Civil Obedience: "That government is best which governs least"

Write an essay to explain the meaning of this statement and discuss what you think should be the basis for increasing or decreasing the governments power.

Many people in our world today believe that if the government has more power and can do more things in our nation, then we will become a stronger nation as a whole. David Thoreau and I, however, think differently. Once what Thoreau wrote is analyzed, we see that a stronger more intrusive government is not always the best choice for a nation. Advantages can be seen in a weaker government including a less direct effect on the people in voting. Disadvantages of having big government run small businesses include the fact that government usually does not have a direct experience with a particular small business and thus does not have the needed knowledge on how to run each specific example of a business.

David Thoreaus statement, "That government is best which governs least" has a strong meaning as well as several implications with it. The basic meaning of his statement in "The Duty of Civil Obedience" is that when a government has less power and less control over its people, it will be more effective and a better run overall government. The statement also gives the obvious implication that when a government has too much power, it becomes weaker as a whole. This may come as a surprise to some people who believe that more control equates to more power and more effectiveness. In the case of government, however, too much control can cause those underneath it to become less voluntary to support that which is above it and thus cause disunity. When good leadership and unity of people is desired, a weak and less intrusive government has great advantages.

When a government is less powerful and controlling over its people, several advantages are provided to those underneath it. Currently, the United States is led primarily by people who are elected by the citizens. This election is a drawn conclusion of what the majority of the citizens want. A majority, however, is not an entirety. When a new president is elected, approximately half of the nation is unhappy. In the election between Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, Roosevelt won even though he had only 57% of the popular vote. This number means that 43% of the nation was unhappy with the choice of president. If a government had little control over the nation, the choice of the president would have had less effect on the people who were unsatisfied with the choice.

Similarly, a more powerful government has several disadvantages. The main disadvantage comes when any large corporation or group of people tries to run small businesses. Since big government cannot have a direct knowledge of how a individual small corporation runs, how can it expect to run multiple small corporations all the same? If government is to control all businesses and competition, it cannot expect that it can run any two flower shops the same way. Perhaps a different location of each shop provides a need for different types of staff at each shop. Because government does not have direct experience with each individual business, it should not be allowed to run multiples of them.

In the end, it is obvious that more power and more control does not necessarily mean more effectiveness. When a less powerful government controls people, it creates a more desirable atmosphere which is less dependant on a majority vote for a leader. Similarly, when it is more powerful, it does not have the needed experience to effectively run small corporations and business but it still tries to run them anyway. David's statement means that a government will be stronger, be more powerful in foreign matters, and be more unified as a nation if the government is less controlling over its people.


nick94 2 / 17  
May 21, 2009   #2
Very Good essay! I like the point that you come from and there is very little to critique.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
May 21, 2009   #3
Good job overall. There are a couple of other points you might have made:

1. Government rewards inefficiency. That is, a company has to be efficient or else it risks bankruptcy. A government can always raise taxes if it needs more money, so it doesn't care. Worse, it allocates its revenue to the most inefficient departments. So, a government department that is under budget for the year will go out and spend all of its remaining money on whatever it has to to get rid of the savings. Otherwise, the government will cut the department's budget next year, on the grounds it clearly didn't need all of the money it was getting. Conversely, a department that is over budget can justify asking for more money next year, on the grounds it clearly needs more resources. So, government isn't just inefficient because it doesn't care about efficiency -- its structure means that it will inherently reward inefficiency more than efficiency.

2. What is the purpose of government? Is it to uphold individual liberty? Or to ensure equal distribution of resources? Or something else entirely? Your position only works if you use "individual liberty" as your purpose, so you might want to spend a bit of time defending that stance.
SairaTasartir 5 / 37  
May 22, 2009   #4
Hi... I just took this test, and my best advice is... don't sweat it! My question basically asked me to agree or disagree whether or not inventions cause more problems than they solve. I just did a quick 5 paragraph essay in less than the time limit, looked it over for grammatical errors, and submitted it. My score? 63! A definite passer, since the bottom line is 50. So you could go much simpler if you wanted to. Just introduce the topic, state your opinion, 3 supporting facts, 3 paragraphs about them, and a concluding paragraph. That should get you a passing score. Good luck!
Indian 3 / 8  
May 22, 2009   #5
Essay is very nice, I am also planning to take the same test. Your essay helps me knowing some facts which I was unaware of.

Good luck for the exam.

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