When I think of the role of government, I think of three things that ought to be preserved, reformed, and enhanced by positive and energetic governmental or quasi-governmental action: the security of the state, the stability and order of society, and the prosperity of the economy. Government does not merely protect these things; it actively encourages them, either through direct action or through partnership with lower entities in society and the economy.
The first responsibilities of statecraft are the preservation of the state, through the preclusion or victorious conclusion of catastrophic war; and the preservation of society, through the preclusion or victorious conclusion of catastrophic revolution. Human society and states being organic and evolving entities, there is no single constellation of institutional arrangements that can preserve the state and society perpetually. Therefore constant reform, constant reorganization, constant vigilance and responsibility on the part of statesmen, is crucial for the maintenance of what stability and tradition can be maintained.
A society and state undergoing too much reform becomes radical, while a society and state undergoing too little reform becomes decadent. Wise statesmen must advance reform at the right pace, preserve tradition in the right degree, balance interests in the right order, and impose order with the right methods, in order to keep what is best of the state and society in a competitive, changing, and dangerous world.
Moreover, the state and society coexist and have always coexisted- there has never been a society not protected by some form of government, nor a government not sustained by some form of society. To privilege one over the other is a rationalist conceit that can lead only to excesses. For that matter, the economy has always existed too, though it is not quite so influential in the affairs of men as society and the state are.
All this is to suggest that, though the conditions of the state, society, and economy may and certainly do change with the tides and winds of history, the principles of human nature and the nature of politics stand with the stars and planets of the human soul. The ultimate objective of any truly empirical political science is not the discovery of the best form of society; it is rather the discovery of those axioms and maxims that best encapsulate the truths of human behavior in political settings across time and space. This, then, may be applied towards the devising of better systems of politics, administration, economy, society, and more. But it ought to go unspoken that before prescriptions can be made, the nature of the problem of politics ought to be understood- and thus political science ought to be geared first towards understanding, and then towards action.