GOVT by K8d2tK


Chapter 1

Contours of American
Learning Objectives

Explain what is meant by the terms politics and government.

Identify the various types of government systems.

Summarize some of the basic principles of American
democracy and the basic American political values.

Describe how the various topics discussed in this text relate
to the “big picture” of American politics and government.
Resolving Conflicts

Providing Public Services

Defending the Nation and Its Culture
Resolving Conflicts
• Social conflict – disagreement among people in a
  society over what the society’s priorities should be –
  is inevitable. Resolving such conflicts is the essence
  of politics.
• Governments decide how conflicts will be resolved
  so that public order can be maintained. They have
  power, which is the ability to influence the behavior
  of others and may involve use of force.
• Governments typically also have authority which
  they can exercise only if their power is legitimate.
Providing Public Services
• Public services are essential services that many
  individuals cannot provide for themselves, such as
  building and maintaining roads, operating public
  schools, and preserving national parks.
• Public services also include national defense, law
  enforcement, health and welfare benefits, etc.
• One of the most crucial public services that the
  government is expected to provide is protection
  from hardship caused by economic recessions and
Defending the Nation and Its Culture

• The U.S. government provides for the common
  defense and national security with its Army, Navy,
  Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
• The Constitution gives the national government
  exclusive power over relations with foreign nations.
• Since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center
  and the Pentagon in 2001, defending the homeland
  against future terrorist attacks has become a priority
  of our government.
Rule by One: Autocracy

Rule by Many: Democracy

Other Forms of Government
Rule by One: Autocracy
• In an autocracy, the power and authority of the
  government are in the hands of a single person.
  ▫ Autocrats usually obtain their power by inheriting it or
    by force.
• A monarchy is a form of autocracy, ruled by a king,
  queen, emperor , empress, tsar, or tsarina. The
  monarch usually acquires power through inheritance
  and is the highest authority in the government.
  ▫ The divine right theory held that God gave those of
    royal birth the unlimited right to govern other men and
Rule by One: Autocracy, cont.
• A dictatorship is another form of autocracy, in
  which a single leader rules, although not
  typically through inheritance.
 ▫ Dictators hold absolute power and are not
   accountable to anyone.
• A dictatorship can also be totalitarian, which
  means that a leader seeks to control almost all
  aspects of social and economic life.
Rule by Many: Democracy
• Democracy is a form of government in which the supreme
  political authority rests with the people.
• The government exists only by the consent of the people
  and reflects the will of the majority.
• Direct democracy – the people participate directly in
  government decision making.
• Direct democracy is possible only in small communities in
  which citizens can meet in a chosen place and decide key
  issues and policies.
  ▫ Nowhere in the world does pure direct democracy exist
Rule by Many: Democracy, cont.
• In a representative democracy, the will of the
  majority is expressed through groups of
  individuals elected by the people to act as their
• Our founders preferred to use the term republic,
  essentially a representative democracy – with
  one qualification – a republic, by definition has
  no king or queen; rather, the people are
  ▫ A representative democracy can be led by a
Rule by Many: Democracy, cont.
• There are basically two forms of representative
 ▫ In a presidential democracy, the lawmaking and
   law-enforcing branches of government are
   separate but equal.
    In the United States, Congress is charged with the
     power to make laws, and the president is charged
     with the power to carry them out.
Rule by Many: Democracy, cont.
• In a parliamentary democracy, the lawmaking
  and law-enforcing branches of government
 ▫ In Britain, the prime minister and the cabinet are
   members of Parliament, which both enacts the
   laws and carries them out.
Other Forms of Government
• A plutocracy is a government in which the wealthy
  exercise ruling power.
• A meritocracy is a government in which the rulers
  have earned, or merited, the right to govern
  because of their special skills or talents.
• A theocracy is a government in which there is no
  separation of church and state. The government
  rules according to religious precepts.
  ▫ In Iran, for example, the Koran (Qur’an) serves as the
    basis for the law.
The British Legacy

Principles of American Democracy

American Political Values

Political Values in a Multicultural Society

American Political Ideology

The Traditional Political Spectrum

Ideology and Today’s Electorate
The British Legacy
• In writing the U.S. Constitution, the framers
  incorporated two basic principles of government
  that had evolved in England:
 ▫ Limited government
 ▫ Representative government
The British Legacy – Limited Government
• The Magna Carta provided for a trial by a
  jury of one’s peers, prohibited the taking
  of a free man’s life, liberty, or property
  except through due process of law.
• The Magna Carta clearly established the
  principle of limited government –
  government on which strict limits are placed,
  usually by a constitution.
• The principle of limited government was
  expanded in 1628 with the signing of the
  Petition of Rights – prohibiting the monarch
  from imprisoning political critics without a jury
The British Legacy – Representative
• In a representative government, the people elect
  individuals to make governmental decisions.
• This group of representatives is often referred to
  as a parliament, which is frequently a
  bicameral (two-house) legislature.
• The English parliament consists of the House of
  Lords and the House of Commons, and
  provided a model for Americans to follow.
The British Legacy – Political Philosophy
• Social-contract theory was developed in the
  seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by such
  philosophers as John Locke and Thomas
  Hobbes in England and Jean-Jacques
  Rousseau in France.
  ▫ Individuals voluntarily agree with one another, in a
    “social-contract,” to give up some of their
    freedoms to obtain the benefits of orderly
Principles of American Democracy
• We can say that American democracy is based
  on five fundamental principles:
 ▫ Equality in voting
 ▫ Individual freedom
 ▫ Equal protection of the law
 ▫ Majority rule and minority rights
 ▫ Voluntary consent to be governed
American Political Values
• From its beginnings, America has been
  defined by a set of ideas, or its political
  culture – a patterned set of ideas,
  values, and ways of thinking about
  government and politics.
• The political values outlined in the
  Declaration of Independence include
  natural rights (to life, liberty, and the
  pursuit of happiness), equality under the
  law, government by the consent of the
  governed, and limited government
American Political Values - Liberty

• The term liberty refers to a state of being free
  from external controls or restrictions.
• The U.S. Constitution sets forth our civil liberties,
  including the freedom to practice whatever
  religion we choose and to be free from any
  state-imposed religion, and the freedom to
  speak freely on any topics and issues.
American Political Values - Equality
• The goal of equality has
  always been a central part of
  American political culture.
• Although most Americans
  believe that all persons should
  have the opportunity to fulfill
  their potential, few contend
  that it is the government’s
  responsibility to totally
  eliminate the economic and
  social differences that lead to
                                    Did the election of President Barack Obama
  unequal opportunities.                      indicate that we are now
                                      the “land of opportunity” and equality?
American Political Values - Property
• For Americans, property and the pursuit of
  happiness are closely related.
• Private ownership of wealth-producing property
  is at the heart of our capitalist economic system.
• Capitalism enjoys such widespread support in
  the United States that we can reasonably call it
  one of the nation’s fundamental political values.
Political Values in a Multicultural Society
• One of the outgrowths of the civil rights movement
  of the 1960s, however, was an emphasis on
  multiculturalism, the belief that the many cultures
  that make up American society should remain
  distinct and be protected by our laws.
American Political Ideology
• Ideology refers to a system of political ideas.
• Americans tend to fall into two broad political
  camps: liberals and conservatives.
  ▫ Liberal has been used to refer to someone who
    advocates change, new philosophies, and new
  ▫ Conservative has described a person who values
    past customs and traditions that have proved their
    value over time.
American Political Ideology - Liberalism
• Modern liberalism in the United States traces its
  roots to the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt
  and its New Deal programs.
• From that time on, the word
  liberalism became
  associated with the concept
  of “big government,” that is,
  with government intervention
  to aid economically
  disadvantaged groups and to
  promote equality.
American Political Ideology, cont.
• Today’s liberals continue to believe that the government
  has a responsibility to undertake social-welfare
  programs at the taxpayers’ expense and to assist the
  poor and the disadvantaged.
• Liberals believe that the national government should
  take steps to ensure that our civil rights and liberties are
• Liberals typically believe in the separation of church and
  state, and generally think that the government should not
  involve itself in the moral or religious life of the nation.
American Political Ideology - Conservatism

• Modern conservatism in this country can also trace
  its roots to the Roosevelt administration, which gave
  conservatives a common cause: opposition to the
  New Deal and to big government.
• Today’s conservatives tend to fall into two basic
  ▫ Economic conservatives – those who seek to minimize
    government spending and intervention in the economy
  ▫ Social conservatives – those who seek to incorporate
    religious and family values into political government
The Traditional Political Spectrum
The Traditional Political Spectrum
• Moderates – people whose views fall in the
  middle of the traditional political spectrum.
  ▫ Many moderates do not belong to either major
    political party and often describe themselves as
• The radical left consists of those who would like
  significant changes in the political order, usually
  to promote human equality.
The Traditional Political Spectrum,

• The radical right includes reactionaries, those
  who wish to turn the clock back to some
  previous era when, for example, there weren’t
  so many civil rights.
 ▫ Members of the radical right may advocate the
   use of violence to achieve their goals.
Ideology and Today’s Electorate
                • Those who hold strongly to
                  political ideologies are
                  called ideologues and
                  usually fit easily on one side
                  or the other of the political
                • Many Americans, though,
                  do not adhere to a particular
                  political ideology.
 The Big Picture
• Even the most divisive issues can be and are
  resolved through the political process. Some of
  the questions that will be answered in the
  remaining chapters are:
 ▫ How does this process work?
 ▫ Who are the key players?
The Big Picture, cont.
• The next chapter will focus on a discussion of
  how and why the Constitution was created, the
  type of governing structure it established, and
  the rights and liberties it guarantees for all
• These topics, covered in Chapters 2 through 5,
  are necessarily the point of departure for any
  discussion of our system of government.
Who Governs?
• As you read through Chapters 6 through 10, keep the
  following questions in mind:
  ▫ How do interest groups influence elections?
  ▫ How essential are political parties to the electoral process?
  ▫ To what extent do public opinion and voting behavior play a
    role in determining who the winners and losers will be?
  ▫ Why are political campaigns so expensive and what are the
    implications of high campaign costs for our democracy?
  ▫ What role do the media, including the Internet, play in
    fashioning the outcomes of a campaign?
Who Governs?
• In Chapter 11 and the remaining chapters, we
  examine these institutions and the process of
  government decision making.
Politics on the Web

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