I actually wrote up these ideas for a paper my junior year in high school. It fits into the conversation very well, here, given that I just posted my views on relationships and society.
It goes like this:
When people work together, they become more than the sum of the parts (as I said a couple days ago).
People do not naturally work together, though. Also as I said, it requires some external force to keep them together.
Moreover (with regard to government at least), the greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts aspect can only be achieved when the community is, to some extent, working toward a common goal or in complementary manners. (Not to be confused with “complimentary manners,” which are also helpful). In a family or group of friends, they will generally be working toward common goals (maintenance of the family, maximization of opportunities to get carefree-drunk, that sort of thing), but a government based simply on linguistic or geographic similarities generally will not have that sort of natural symmetry of purpose.
In times of wealth or general prosperity, a community can afford a great degree of inefficiency, thus it will tend to operate on a natural, ungoverned level. This encourages the diversity within the group, but the group also acts less and less as an effective whole.
Eventually, times of prosperity will be challenged. It is the Nature of Things. It’s practically what they do, when you get right down to it. Golden Ages End. Write that in large letters.
When the community is faced with hard times, its inefficiency becomes a great weakness. In order to succeed, the community will seek out efficiency. This is the role of government. Government organizes and orders the diverse elements of a community to act toward a common purpose, using coordinated efforts. You can see this build-up very clearly in the conversion between a peaceful state and a wartime state, but it can happen in any event that threatens general prosperity.
In order to eliminate the threat, the community provides for itself powerful leaders. This is equally a description of the processes that established King Saul, King David, Julius Caesar, George Washington, Hitler, and G. W. Bush — most powerful leaders, good or bad, democratically elected or not, gain their prominence when their community feels threatened and helpless. If the leader that emerges is ineffective, the community will either find a stronger one, or suffer further hardship.
If a successful leader is found, that leader will guide his community through adversity. This can only be achieved by maximizing the community’s efficiency, as I said before. Maximizing efficiency is a process of oversight and organization. Again, consider any historical example you care to. I like Charlemagne and Caesar in particular, but take your pick.
Once the leader has attained success, you will find a nation of extraordinary capacity, given its organization and efficiency. Consider the post-war boom in America during the 50s, or the decadence of the Roman Empire following Caesar Augustus’ consolidation of power.
This level of success emboldens the members of the community who, no longer faced with an external threat and clearly aware of their own power, resent the oppressive regime that dictates (that is, organizes and oversees) their lives. As the community achieves a greater degree of general prosperity, the efficiency provided by strong government becomes less necessary, and the people, in one way or another, pull down their leader, preferring to operate on a natural, ungoverned level.
Now, if the community has long been accustomed to strong leadership, they may immediately feel a sense of fear and weakness following the overthrow of their leader. In such a case, they may immediately restart the cycle, by seeking out a strong leader to comfort them. This may also happen if the process of removing the previous leader is drawn-out or exceedingly difficult. Consider the French revolution as an example of the latter (and the terrible Robespierre), or the tyranny of Cromwell on the overthrow of King Charles I in England.
On the other hand, the revolution may go peacefully, and the people are left with relatively impotent government, and a period of general prosperity. They will be happy in this natural state for a while.
But remember: Golden Ages end. It seems to be the nature of man to promote tyrants in times of need, and detest them in times of prosperity.