Home » Languages » English (Sr. Secondary) » Essay, Paragraph or Speech on “Optional and Essential Functions of Modern States” Complete Essay, Speech for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Essay, Paragraph or Speech on “Optional and Essential Functions of Modern States” Complete Essay, Speech for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Optional and Essential Functions of Modern States

In order that the State may exist it must exercise certain essential functions which are determined by three-fold relations, viz. of State to State, of State to citizen and of citizen to citizen. According to Woodrow Wilson, these essential functions are:

  1. The keeping of order and providing for the protection of persons and property from violence and robbery;
  2. The fixing of the legal relations between man and wife, and between parents and children
  3. The regulation of the holding, transmission and interchange of property, and the determination of its liabilities for debt or for crime;
  4. The determination of contract rights between individuals;
  5. The definition and punishment of crime;
  6. The administration of justice in civil causes;

vii. The determination of the political duties, privileges, and relations of citizens; and

viii. The dealings of the State with foreign powers, i.e. the preservation of the State from external (tenor or encroachment and the advancement of its international interests.

For maintaining law and order every State maintains the army, police and other civil officers. The environment of peace and order is expected to serve the ends of justice and bring happiness to all. It should not be an order for the sake of order. As Merriam writes. By itself order may be slavery: order may be the prison or the concentration camps: order may mean the orderly exploitation of the apotheosis of might and the shame of right. It is only as order becomes the implement of the common good that it is respected and followed. With the evolution of the social welfare idea, law and order has become conducive to common welfare

Optional functions are functions of the State which are regarded as desirable for the promotion of social welfare. But in modern States these functions are so important for common welfare that trio State now usually undertakes mem wholly or in part with a view to regulate social or economic institutions like private enterprises or run some enterprises of its own if it can manage them more efficiently. Fields of such functions are railways, roads and bridges, hydroelectric projects, canals, exploration of energy sources, raw materials, telegraph and postal services, heavy engineering, coinage, currency and banking, etc.

Woodrow Wilson has enumerated the optional functions as: (i) the regulation of trade and industry including coinage, standardization of weight and measures, licensing of trades, tariff arid navigation laws, etc.: (ii) the regulation of labour; (iii) the maintenance, of thoroughfares, including the management of railways; (iv) the maintenance of postal and telegraph systems; (v) the manufacture and distribution of gas, the maintenance of waterworks, etc.; (VI) sanitation; (vii) education; (viii) the case of the poor and incapable; (ix) the . care and cultivation of forests and like matters, such as the stocking of rivers with fish; and (x) sumptuary laws, such as ‘prohibition’.

The optional functions of the State have been gradually multiplying. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a State was mostly a Police State. The individualistic concept held away. The State interfered the least. In the 20th century, the State has become a huge social service corporation. It has assumed the role of a teacher, guide, manager and industrialist itself. This is what is called an era of socialism. But the States which did not wish to be called socialist have coined the concept of the welfare State. Hobman rightly describes the welfare State as a product of an orthodox marriage of 19th century individualism with 20th century socialism”.

The traditional problems of political philosophy are based on the nature and justification of political obligation and authority. There are two essentially different sets of questions. First, there is the question how men came together under governments and what were the motives which originally influenced them to do this and which still prevail to keep them obedient to government orders. This question has been properly studied by social historians, sociologists and psychologists. Before sociology and psychology were established as independent sciences, many political philosophers included speculations on these historical and psychological topics in their work. The second question is that of the ethical justification of obedience to government; or, if we look at it from the point of view of the rulers, that of the moral basis of their authority.

Ever-Expanding Sphere of State Activity: Though there may be some controversy and a few may still plead that the State should not perform optional functions, yet it is now within the sphere of State activity to perform them both because of necessity. In fact, the sphere of State activity in this direction is ever-increasing.

There are many limitations which are imposed on State authority but greatest limitation, which exists or ought to exist, is that the sovereignty of the people should be fully established. In every State it is now believed that ultimate sovereignty vests with the people who are masters in all respects.

The so-called capitalist systems all over the world, including North America, have for a long time been moving in a socialist direction free State-supported education for everybody. Steeply progressive income-taxes, social insurance for such needs as health care and target setting for national economic growth.

Socialist systems and socialist parties are now-a-days recognizing that there are some virtues in decentralized types of economic management, in mixtures of collective and private ownership, and even in limited use of profit incentives. This is certainly true where the socialist doctrine is evolutionary and politically democratic as, for example, in the case of Britain or India. Even in countries where the more totalitarian types of socialism have been installed by communist parties, there are indications of loosening in economic orthodoxy. Yugoslavia is an obvious example, and other Communist countries of Eastern Europe, like Poland and Czechoslovakia are somewhat pragmatic and experimental. For examples, China is now experimenting with the idea that the performance of some of its consumer-goods factories might be improved by allowing the managers to manage in accordance with market demands without so many directives from the central planner.

Socialism seeks to introduce both political and economic democracy. This implies steps to achieve economic goal of “freedom from want and freedom from fear”. The society is said to have a collective conscience. It seeks to ensure protection to the poor and the have-nots. Under socialism alone altruism and collective conscience find legal extension and they are regarded as motivations of State action. The advocates of this theory find that society is primary and individual is secondary.

The socialist theory advocates more and more functions of the State. But it is criticised on the following grounds:

(i) Abolition of private ownership of means of production kills the incentive of the people.

(ii) Collective ownership fails to stimulate individual efforts and prevents the unfolding of individual genius.

(iii) It gives premium on idleness and incompetence. Socialism is critised as ethically unsound and socially pernicious.

(iv) Socialist theory bestows more and more powers on the government in the name of providing material prosperity to the people, but this curtails the liberty of the people to a large extent.

It is sometimes said that socialism leads to red-tapism, delay and wastage. It kills private initiative and incentive and as such discourages production. Everybody’s business becomes nobody’s business.

The State, according to Hobson has assured the duties of a doctor, nurse, schoolmaster, trader, manufacturer, insurance agent, house builder, town planner, railway worker and a hundred other functions, all rolled in one hatchet.

Every welfare State strives to bring education within the reach of every individual. Education does not remain the monopoly of the richer classes. Elementary education is imparted to all children and higher education is made available to those who are duly talented and the interests of the State will be served by their education at higher levels. Schemes of scholarships and stipends are launched in order to enable the deserving few to equip themselves with the right type of education.

A welfare State makes a provision for comprehensive system of education—basic, general and technical—for all the individuals aspiring for and deserving such education. A welfare State tries its best to provide to its population food to eat, clothes to wear and a house to live. Maximum effort is made to end unemployment. Workers’ conditions of work arc considerably improved, hours of work are shortened. Wages are increased. Healthy working environments are provided. Provision against disability and old age is made. Exploitation of the working classes by businessmen is ended. The luxury for the few and misery for the many is brought to an end. In the U.K., for instance various Factory Acts have been passed to improve the lot of worker who now feels that the State is a good custodian of his interests. Maternity and child welfare schemes have been adopted in many countries to secure the child and the mother, even if born in a poor family.

In India, exploitation of children below the age of 14 was ended long back. Children are not allowed to work in hazardous factories. The backward and scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes are being economically uplifted. Article 38 lays down that “the State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice—social, economic and political—shall improve all institutions of national life.” Minimum Wages Act has been passed fixing the bare minimum of wages for the working classes. Much work has been accomplished through five-year plans. The Parliament and the State Legislatures have passed numerous laws to expand the welfare schemes to include every section of society. Community development projects have been launched to improve the lot of the farmers and the artisans.

T.H. Marshall sums up the functions of the welfare State in these words, The State has the responsibility of providing means whereby all its members can reach minimum standard of health, economic security and civilised living, and can share according to their capacity, in its social and cultural heritage.’

Thus a welfare State has the following essential features:

(a) Individual welfare is linked to the total welfare of all individuals.

(b) It assures minimum standard of living and opportunity to the citizens irrespective of caste, creed and race.

(c) It provides a wide range of social services to the citizens.

(d) It endeavours sincerely to pave the way for an equitable distribution of income for every citizen.

The trim welfare State attained great popularity in the 20th century. Most of the backward and developing democracies have already started working in terms of the welfare State.


The main objective of this website is to provide quality study material to all students (from 1st to 12th class of any board) irrespective of their background as our motto is “Education for Everyone”. It is also a very good platform for teachers who want to share their valuable knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.