The purpose of government was always pretty much what it looks like today: a ruling class managing, as clayboyn described it, a group of wage slaves (back then it was more like sustenance slaves) and landed gentry. It goes back to feudal times, but even here in the US you can see that our original 18th century federal government was little more than a protectionist tariff-imposing organization for the country's first organized industries (primarily shipping and importers)... that and the vehicle for a central bank (the first of three) that would be in charge of funding early American wartime purchases.

Change is the only constant.