Government is a divinely instituted good. Solomon says that “Where there is no governor, the people shall fall.” And Paul warns that there is no authority except that which God has established. Yet it is also true that the State exists for man, and not man for the State. God established authority, but for man and not for itself.
If we apply the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, we can sum up the purpose of the State by saying that it is to serve the common good by fulfilling those requirements which cannot be met by lower associations. These can be roughly enumerated as keeping the peace between lower social bodies, providing for defense from foreign invaders, and seeing to the maintenance of distributive justice. In a healthy society the role of the State need not be extensive or overly intrusive. The State is, however, completely necessary. Only in society can man fulfill himself, and this means that political life is part of his nature. Social and political activities are justified in their existence because of man, and should not be viewed as something erected over and against him.
It does not follow from this that the government which governs least, governs best. The opposite may just as often prove true. The State has a distinct role to play, and it must be judged, not based on how much or little it governs, but by whether or not it carries out the functions proper to it. It “exists to achieve an end otherwise unobtainable: the full growth of each of its members, called to cooperate steadfastly for the attainment of the common good, under the impulse of their natural inclinations towards what is true and good.”