How Would You Respond?

I have a favorite question I often include on my graduate-level take-home final. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer–the question is intended to make the student think about the role government plays in human society, the values that should constrain the use of power, the rules of behavior that are necessary and appropriate, and the practicality of the mechanisms chosen to enforce those rules.

How would you answer this question?

Earth has been destroyed in World War III. You and a few thousand others—representing a cross-section of Earth’s races, cultures and religions—are the only survivors. You have escaped to an earth-like planet, and are preparing to create a government for the society you hope to establish. You want that government to be stable and enduring, but also flexible enough to meet unforeseen challenges. You also want to avoid the errors of the Earth governments that preceded you. What does your new government look like? What is its structure, and what powers will it exercise? How will those powers be limited? How will government officials and policies be chosen? What social and political values will it be based upon?


  1. Benevolent dictatorship. The real challenge is finding the right dictator. I’d favor a method much like the choosing of the next Dalai Lama. The system also requires the one check/balance of a single person with no power other to remove the dictator that is no longer benevolent, much like the county coroner is the party that has the power to arrest a county sheriff in Indiana.

  2. I’d have to think long and hard to even approach Sheila’s question. But a bunch of middle school students involved in “We the People” have considered almost that exact question as they study the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system.
    We the People state finals for high school are this weekend, and next Tuesday for middle school.
    I’ll be a middle school judge, and expect to learn a lot from the kids!

  3. I would begin with single-mothers who have been dealing with government problems from all levels; the majority of them living on bare-bones budgets and having to make all decisions for their family’s survival. This group would have a better view of what worked and what didn’t work in the past; could make sound decisions on what should be reformed and what should be left out of a new governmental structure. Just sayin’

  4. Hmmm, interesting response, Kennedy. Kilroy; does anyone in this state have the power to arrest Pence for obstruction of education and quality health care? I will stick with my choice of single mothers who must rule their family as a dictator but temper it with benevolency to maintain the level of love needed in raising children. I sorely failed but can see my mistakes in these later years of their lives and my own.

  5. Very thought provoking. This could very well be reality at some point in the not too distant future. We can only pray that we have the ability to overcome ourselves. As much as we are alike that is how different we seem to be. The only government ever created and endured that recognized the inalienable rights and humanity of all it citizens is the one created by our fore fathers some two hundred plus years ago. Are there flaws in our system? Certainly. But, as in any government be it a democracy or a tyrant controlled dictatorship, those flaws are generally human flaws. Those can be overcome. I’ll now reverse the question….name me one other form of government throughout history any better devised and created other than the one we are so fortunate enough to live under, and I am reday to debate if you have an answer other than ours.

  6. If the earth has been destroyed by war, then everyone would have to work together on rebuilding everything from scratch.
    As a democratic socialist, I would choose a society that is gun free and provide education for the masses no matter your age. There would be no churches, no religions and no worshiping of gods. There would be no money and no jobs that would need pay so no taxes to pay either. There would be no capital punishment or prisons. Live and let Live. It could be paradise with no rich or poor people. Just compassion toward one another with hope for a better future. And chocolate.

    I suck at this stuff which is why it took me 25 yrs to complete my bachelor degree at age 45. 🙂

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