VIEWS: 2 PAGES: 95 POSTED ON: 8/27/2012
AMERICAN GOVERNMENT What is GOVERNMENT? Government is one of the oldest institutions on earth. Enlightenment philosophers traced its origin to ancient Mesopotamia. Theistic thinkers trace its origin to God’s early dealings with man. What we know for certain is that early man felt a need to control – to govern – his actions. From the earliest times, it appears that life without a controlling influence was, as British philosopher Thomas Hobbes later put it, “…nasty, brutish, and short.” The 4th century B.C. Greek philosopher Aristotle – student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great – was among the first to ponder the origin and purpose of government. He studied the polis – the ancient Greek city-state. The English terms “politics” and “citizen” both derive from the Greek term “polis.” The word “polis” is little remembered today outside of academic circles. We are more familiar with the more modern terms “country” and “state” – and we use them interchangeably. GOVERNMENT The institution through which the public policies of a state are made and enforced. But this is the formal definition of government… We encounter many “governments” in our lives… Your Family Schools Jobs Churches, Synagogues, Temples, and Mosques In each of these institutions, law (or rule) making and law (or rule) enforcing goes on. In other words, someone (or a group) acts as legislator (rule- maker) and executive (rule- enforcer.) In this course, we will largely be speaking of government in its more formal sense – the institutions, offices, and individuals who govern us – and that as it pertains to the United States of America. Now, getting back to “countries” and “states”… What political scientists and historians call the state is the dominant political institution in the world today. The state (from the Latin stare, “to stand”) A political community that occupies a definite territory and has an organized government with the power to make and enforce laws without approval from any higher power There are close to 200 states in our world at the beginning of the 21st century. The United States of America is one of them. Now lets look at each of the four characteristics of a state… Population States are made up of people. Some states have extremely large populations, some extremely small. The largest state in the world today in terms of population is… The People’s Republic of China Population – Jan. 2009 – just over 1.3 billion people. The smallest state in the world in terms of population is… Vatican City Resident Population - 900 What difference does the size of a country’s population make? It can add to the number of problems the country faces – overcrowding, housing, food shortages, etc.. It can also be a source of political instability, if the government doesn’t deal with the problems effectively. Territory States (countries) always have defined borders, separating their territory from that of other countries. The boundaries of a state may be defined by natural formations, such as oceans, rivers, or mountain ranges. They may also be defined simply by artificial man-drawn lines on a map. The territorial size of a state may be large or small. The largest state in the world in terms of territory is… Russia Over 6,500,000 square miles The territorial size of the United States… 3,718,711 square miles The smallest state in the world today in terms of territory is… Vatican City Size? Just under 109 acres! Government States must be organized politically, which is to say that they have a formal government structure. States have different types of governments based on their unique historical experience. Sovereignty The ability to make and enforce laws and to set policies without the approval of any higher power. In other words… The Congress of the United States can pass laws and the President can sign them into law – or veto (reject) them – without the approval of the British or Canadian Parliaments, the Japanese Diet, the Israeli Knesset, etc.. And – of course – those legislative bodies can do the same without our Congress’ approval! Theories for the Origin of the State I. The FORCE Theory The first government emerged in prehistoric times when a strong man (or a group of strong men) rose up and forced his will on others with the threat of violence and death. Source of power: Physical Strength II. The EVOLUTIONARY Theory Some scholars believe that the state evolved from the family. Evolution in this context simply means change in a particular direction. The head of the primitive family was the authority that served as a government. An extended family might include hundreds of people. Abraham’s descendants in the Torah, the Old Testament of the Bible, and the Koran are an example of the emergence of this kind of rule. Gradually, over time, the large extended family required a higher degree of social organization. III. The DIVINE RIGHT Theory Also called the Euro-Asian power model The idea that earthly rulers acquire their authority from God (or “the gods”) – and that God (or “the gods”) has chosen certain special people to rule over others by “divine right” Important to many civilizations throughout human history The Egyptians had their Pharaohs. The Chinese had their Emperors. Europe had its Kings. Each were held to be men endued with power from on high to rule other men. They were believed to be “god-men” – and to oppose them was to oppose God! (Or, at least, that’s what they wanted their subjects to believe!) Government = Powerful The People = Powerless The American Revolution was fought in opposition to this idea! And now we turn to the theory for the origin of the state on which the Founding Fathers based our country… The Social Contract Theory Beginning in the 1600’s, Europeans began to challenge rulers who believed their authority came from God. They were supported by the writings of philosophers who believed that the origin of the state was in a social contract – an agreement among the members of society. The most important social contract philosophers were… Thomas Hobbes and John Locke of England and Jean Jacques Rousseau of France. Thomas Hobbes’ great contribution to social contract theory came in his book Leviathan, published in 1651. Hobbes wrote that early man lived in a state of nature. No government existed. Without an authority to protect people from one another, life was “nasty, brutish, and short.” By social contract (an agreement among the members of society), people surrendered to the state the power needed to maintain order. The state, for its part in the contract, agreed to protect the citizens. But the state had absolute power over the lives of the people. Once they surrendered their freedom, they were powerless. …and Hobbes did not believe the people had any right to break the agreement. He acknowledged no right of revolution. John Locke took the social contract an important step further. In 1688, the British Parliament forced King James II out of office and invited William and Mary of Orange to rule – an event in British history known as the Glorious Revolution. In Two Treatises of Civil Government, published in 1689, Locke defended the action taken by Parliament and went even further. He wrote that people were naturally endowed with the right to life, liberty, and property. These rights are born into us, Locke wrote. They are part of our very nature as human beings. To preserve these rights, people freely contracted with one another to surrender power to a governing authority. As long as the government fulfilled its obligation to protect the natural rights of the people, the people permitted it to continue in power. But, if government ever failed to protect the natural rights of the people, the people had the right to break the contract, abolishing the government. Nearly a century later, the American colonists revolted against the rule of King George III of England, citing, in the Declaration of Independence, the political philosophy of natural rights that Locke had written about. The Sources of the Authority of Modern Government (1) LEGITIMACY The willingness of people to obey the government. In democratic countries, the government’s legitimacy is based on the consent of the governed. (2) COERCIVE FORCE Derives from the police, military, and judicial institutions of government. Government can force people to obey the law, by punishing them with fines, imprisonment, even death if they do not do so. Today governments in general serve several major purposes for the state… (1) To maintain social order (2) To provide public services (3) To provide for national security and the common defense (4) To provide for and control the economic system The Framers of the Constitution listed the purposes of American government in the PREAMBLE to the Constitution “We the People of the United States, in order to…” 1. Form a more perfect union 2. Establish justice 3. Insure domestic tranquility 4. Provide for the common defense 5. Promote the general welfare 6. Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity “…do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Types of Government In order to study them, political scientists classify governments according to three criteria: (1) Where is the power located? (2) What is the relationship between the lawmakers (the legislative branch) and the law-enforcers (the executive branch)? (3) How many govern? The answers to these questions comprise various forms of government. Where Is Power Located? UNITARY GOVERNMENT - A central or national government has supreme power. - The central government may create lower levels to govern smaller units and may give those agencies limited powers. CONFEDERATE GOVERNMENT (CONFEDERATION) - A loose alliance of independent, sovereign states. - The states may create a central government of strictly limited powers. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT - The central government shares power with regional governments - The United States Constitution created a federal system of government. What Is The Relationship Between The Lawmakers (Legislative) And The Law- Enforcers (Executive)? PARLIAMENTARY GOVERNMENT - The Executive (the Prime Minister and his or her Cabinet) – members of the Legislative Branch (Parliament) - The Prime Minister : the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons in Parliament PRESIDENTIAL GOVERNMENT - The Chief Executive - the President – is elected separately from Congress and serves a separate term of office. How Many Govern? Political philosophers going back to Aristotle have identified five kinds of rule: (1) Rule of one : Autocracy – Monarchies and Dictatorships (2) Rule of a few : Oligarchy (3) Rule of “the many” : Democracy - Rule by majority (4) Rule of Law : Republic - From the Latin res publica – the “public thing” (the Law) (5) Rule of None : Anarchy AUTOCRACY: Rule By One ABSOLUTE or TOTALITARIAN DICTATORSHIP - The oldest and one of the most common forms of government - Sources of power: Force, Fear - Most dictators seize power by force and hold on to their power through the ruthless use of the military or a secret police - The ideas of the dictator are glorified. - The government tries to control all aspects of social and economic life - Exs. of totalitarian dictatorships: (1) Adolf Hitler – Nazi Germany (1933-1945) (2) Benito Mussolini – Fascist Italy (1922-1943) (3) Joseph Stalin – The Soviet Union (1924-1953) - Key ideas in a totalitarian dictatorship: (A) The government is not responsible to the people (B) The people can in no way limit their rulers MONARCHY - Source of power: Family bloodline, inheritance - Two types: (A) Absolute Monarchies - EX.: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (B) Constitutional Monarchies - EX.: Queen Elizabeth II of England But a pure AUTOCRACY where one person truly rules alone is impossible! Monarchs and Dictators must have the help of others – vassals, lords, a secret police organization, a loyal military force, etc. – in order to rule a country! So true Autocracy, as a form of government, doesn’t really exist! OLIGARCHY: Rule By A Few Sources of power: Wealth Military Power Social Position or A combination of the three Sometimes: religion - EXS.: today’s communist powers (such as CHINA) - Key idea: the claim of rule for the people An oligarchy is the only real way a King or Queen – or a Dictator – or the members of one political party – can rule a country. So OLIGARCHY, as a form of government, is frequently found in history and today. DEMOCRACY: Rule By Majority From the Greek language – demos = the people kratien = (plural form of krater) to rule Aristotle coined the term demokratia to mean the rule of the people. We have anglicized it to democracy. Key idea of democracy: the people hold sovereign power In his Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln described democracy as “…government of the people, by the people, and for the people…” But two forms of DEMOCRACY have existed in history – and only one of them is practical as a form of government over a country – Rule by MAJORITY Two Forms of Democracy Direct Democracy - Suited only for small societies - Exs.: New England town meetings The smaller states or cantons in Switzerland No country today is ruled by direct democracy. Majority Rule - Do we really have majority rule in the United States? - Do we really want majority rule? Well Known to the Founding Fathers: The Danger of Rule by Majority The Founding Fathers called Democracy “mobocracy” – the rule of the mob. They knew that true majority rule can lead very quickly to tyranny… - Either a “tyranny of the majority” or a dictator (or other tyrant) that the people turn to in order to have order and safety The Founding Fathers saw DEMOCRACY as a transitional form between oligarchy and anarchy. They never intended the United States to be a DEMOCRACY. The word DEMOCRACY is not used at all in America’s Founding Documents (the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution) because the Founding Fathers never created a DEMOCRACY. The Founding Fathers created the United States to be a REPUBLIC! How do we know that? Because they told us over and over again in our Founding Documents that, nationally, we were to be a REPUBLIC and that “republican” government was guaranteed for each of the States. What is a REPUBLIC? Republic - from the Latin res publica – the “public thing” (the Law) Republic – the Rule of LAW As Benjamin Franklin was leaving the final session of what has come to be called the Constitutional Convention, a woman stopped him on the street. She inquired of the great man, “Dr. Franklin, what have you given us?” He responded, “A Republic, ma’am, if you can keep it.” We used to know this by heart! It was discussed around our family supper tables, celebrated in our literature, taught very carefully in our schools. We still are given the opportunity every morning in this school to place our hands over our hearts and pledge our personal allegiance to our flag “…and to the Republic for which it stands…”. Why did the Founding Fathers draw such a distinction between a democracy and a republic? Because they knew a REPUBLIC – where the Law rules (not single leaders, nor small groups, nor even the majority) – offered the greatest possible protection for individual, personal LIBERTY! Characteristics of American Democracy Individual Liberty - Not total freedom, but freedom within the law Majority Rule but with protections for the rights of the minority - The Founding Fathers knew that any majority can tyrannize a minority if minority rights are not protected Free Elections - Everyone’s vote “weighted” equally - All candidates can freely express their views - Citizens are free to help candidates or support issues - Few legal requirements for voting Competing political parties - What is a political party? In human history, democracies have been rare. WHY? Because they tend to devolve into anarchy. In addition, because what we know as democracy today appears to require a particular environment in which to develop and flourish. Five General Criteria Needed For The Development Of Democracy #1 DEMOCRACY REQUIRES CITIZENS WHO ARE WILLING TO PARTICIPATE IN CIVIC LIFE. #2 DEMOCRACY REQUIRES A FAVORABLE ECONOMY. Democracy succeeds more in countries without extremes of wealth and poverty and that have a large middle class. Democracy succeeds in an environment of economic freedom (a free enterprise economy). Democracy succeeds more in countries with stable, growing economies. #3 DEMOCRACY IS MORE LIKELY TO SUCCEED IN COUNTRIES WITH AN EDUCATED CITIZENRY. #4 DEMOCRACY CANNOT EXIST WITHOUT A STRONG CIVIL SOCIETY, a complex network of voluntary associations, economic groups, religious organizations, and many other kinds of groups that exist independently of government. #5 Democracy also prospers where there is a general CONSENSUS or agreement among the people about the social and political values and goals of the society. Valence issues Wedge issues Economic Theories Economics – the study of human efforts to satisfy unlimited wants and needs with limited resources. The world’s three major economic systems: A. Capitalism B. Socialism C. Communism Five Characteristics of Capitalism Private ownership of property and resources Free enterprise Business competition Freedom of choice The possibility of profits Buyers and sellers have unlimited freedom to make economic decisions in a free market. The government adopts a laissez-faire (French: “Leave it alone”) policy. No nation has a pure capitalist system. The United States has a mixed economy in which free enterprise, or capitalist practices, are combined with and supported by government influences. Major news sources, including Newsweek magazine, have suggested that – since the economic downturn last fall and the election of President Obama in November – the economic direction we are taking is more toward government control and farther away from free enterprise. Socialism Under socialism, the government owns the means of production and makes most economic decisions. Socialism has three goals: (1) Public ownership of most land and the means of production (2) Government control over most economic decisions (3) Equal distribution of wealth Socialists believe workers should share equally in the benefits of production. Opponents (like me) say that socialism stifles individual initiative and hinders economic growth through high taxes. Communism Based on the conviction that history is a struggle between two classes – The bourgeoisie own the means of production and use their economic power to oppress the proletariat, or workers. This struggle must end in violent revolution, after which government owns the means of production and distribution. In time one class will evolve, property will be held in common, and there will be no need for government. In a perfect communist system, Karl Marx theorized, government would just “wither away.” In communist systems, as they exist today, all economic decisions are made at the upper levels of a very powerful national government.
Pages to are hidden for
"AMERICAN GOVERNMENT"Please download to view full document