Government, Chapter 1 Notes 1.1 WHAT IS GOVERNMENT? Government is the formal structures and institutions through which decisions are made for a body of people. A government is a typically composed of three things: people, powers, and policies. The people of government include everyone from elected officials to public servants who carry out local, state, and national government business. A government’s power is its authority and ability to get things done. In American government, this includes legislative, executive, and judicial powers. The policies of a government are any decisions it makes in pursuit of a goal, ranging from specific laws to general programs or actions. CHARACTERISTICS OF A STATE Most modern governments are run within a state, a political community made up by a group of people that lives within a clearly defined territory. A state is typically defined by four characteristics. 1. territory, land whose formal borders are recognized by other states. 2. population. 3. a government, recognized by its people, which creates and enforces laws. 4. sovereignty, or the supreme power to act within its own territory. Although this power does mean the government is the highest authority in the state, the government remains subject to the same laws as its people.functions of government Ensure national security • Guard its territory and its people against external threats • Create and maintain national defense forces including military personnel, weaponry, and operations, as well as peacekeeping missions • Maintain good relations with other nations (diplomacy) Maintain order • Laws help maintain order and protect rights, property, and lives • Must have clear rules for unacceptable behavior and consequences • Different societies have different ideas about lawful behavior and appropriate punishment • Must have means to identify and punish wrongdoers Resolve conflict • Some use intimidation and force; most use politics and justice system • Groups try to influence government decisions through politics o Politics - the process by which government makes and carries out decisions as to whose interests will be served in society. o These decisions are made by officials elected by the state’s people, many of whose wants and needs are very different. o The government must therefore make compromises within the political process before creating new laws and enacting new programs. Provide Services • People pay taxes to fund services such as parks, mail, and education Provide for the Public Good • Definitions of “public” and “public good” change over time • These questions are addressed through the political process • Public goods include clean water, parks, and roads; restricted services may include medical care, high schools, and public housing o One example of government fulfilling this purpose is regulating food safety, an action that protects all Americans. o As American society and culture has changed over the centuries, citizens and government have needed to reevaluate what defines “public good” and even “public.” THEORIES OF RULE There are various political philosophies as to why people allow governments to rule them. • Legitimacy - the idea that rulers are seen as right and proper by important segments of a nation’s population. People, therefore, will voluntarily accept governance. Divine Right of Kings (Europe) / Mandate of Heaven (China) Ruler is believed to be chosen by God or the gods Believed in ancient China, ancient Egypt, the Inca Empire, the Roman Empire, Japan until the mid-twentieth century, and seventeenth-century Europe Can a man overthrow someone appointed by God? Social contract theory: governments formed when people agreed to submit to state authority in return for protection and support Government is legitimate only so long as the power is given to the state. Contributed to by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau EMINENT DOMAIN The power to take private property for public use, to serve the public good, in exchange for a fair price for their land The 5th amendment to the U.S. Constitution 1. guarantees “life, liberty, and property 2. states that no person’s property can be taken by the government for public use without fail compensation While laws governing eminent domain vary by place, in most cases the following is involved 1. An attempt is made to purchase the property at a fair value 2. If the owner does not want to sell, a court action is filed to use eminent domain 3. A hearing in scheduled 4. At the hearing, the government must show that it made a fair attempt to purchase the property and show that the property is being taken for a public use. 5. If either side is not satisfied with the outcome, the decision may be appealed read page 13 together 1.2 THE CLASSIC FORMS The most common form of government in world history has been the monarchy, a system of government headed by one person who inherits power, such as a king or queen. o In an absolute monarchy, the monarch’s power is unlimited o In the more common constitutional monarchy, the monarch is a ceremonial figure, less powerful than other parts of the government. A dictatorship holds unlimited power over government. o one person—called a dictator o or a group of people—called an oligarchy The strength of dictators, who have usually taken over the former government by force, varies. o Theocracies, are linked closely to religion. The most powerful are totalitarian governments, which attempt to dominate all aspects of society, including religion and the economy. Democracy, literally meaning “rule by the people,” is a much different form of government. o In a direct democracy, citizens meet regularly to discuss and address issues and vote directly for leaders. o Since this system is hard to accomplish in large nations, many countries, including the United States, choose to be republics (sometimes called representative democracies). In a republic, the people elect representatives to make decisions for them. ORGANIZING NATIONAL POWER There are a variety of ways in which countries govern their smaller administrative units, such as states, cities, and provinces. Most countries employ the unitary system, through which ultimate authority, or sovereignty, rests in a single national government. While local governments can still exist in the unitary system, the national government can overrule their decisions and even abolish them completely. In a federal system, invented by the Framers of the U.S. Constitution, power over people and land is divided between the national government and regional levels of government, such as state governments. Unlike a unitary system, in a federal system neither level of government can abolish the other nor can each operate completely independently of the other. The third organizational form of national power, the confederal system, is uncommon today. Under this system, independent states govern their own people and land while still maintaining a weak central government. This central government is only responsible for functions important to the group of states, or confederation, such as defense and trade. PRESIDENTS AND PARLIAMENTS Democracies, though they can vary somewhat in structure, follow either a presidential political system or a parliamentary political system. Presidential system The United States’ government is an example of a presidential system. In this system, besides acting as the head of state, the president is also the head of the executive branch. His or her duties as chief executive range from setting foreign policy to appointing cabinet members to introducing legislation. o Since the U.S. government structure includes separation of powers, the president’s authority is balanced by the way the legislature can check his or her actions. The president and Congress must work together to make sure the daily business of government gets done. Unfortunately, this system of divided government can sometimes result in political gridlock; when the president and Congress disagree, the political process can come to a halt. Parliamentary system Gridlock is less of a problem in parliamentary systems since the executive and legislative branches are one entity. Members of the legislature, called parliament, are elected by the people. These officials in turn choose the prime minister, who is both the head of state and the leader of the majority party in parliament. If the prime minister loses support of his or her party, he or she must resign, at which points parliament chooses another head of state. o Critics of the parliamentary system feel that it is wrong that the voting public cannot directly elect a prime minister and that the prime minister is too much under the control of parliament. But supporters believe that it is easier to pass laws in this kind of united system than in the presidential system. 1.3 IDEALS OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY Liberty (aka freedom) is the ability of people to think and act as they choose, so long as their choices do not harm the liberty or well-being of other people. o The Framers designed the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to specifically protect this ideal. o For example, Americans’ basic rights are protected from government interference by the First Amendment, which protects free speech, assembly, the press, and religion. o The Framers also ensured that Americans would be able to exercise these protected rights, such as exercising their right to counsel or to vote. Equality - the principle that all people possess a fundamental, moral worth that entitles them to fair treatment under the law and equal opportunity. o Yet some groups of Americans, including Native Americans and enslaved African Americans, were not always treated with equality. o The American people and their government have had to make changes to guarantee that equality in its fullest form does indeed exist and is adequately balanced with the ideal of liberty. Self-government - the belief that ordinary people can aspire to rule themselves and can do so as political equals. o The Declaration of Independence proclaimed the importance of self-government to the American colonists, and the American Revolution was fought to make self-government possible. o Under self-government, the power of the government lies primarily with the people, who have the right to keep or abolish the government as they see fit. PRINCIPLES OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY The worth of the individual - If a person is allowed to pursue his or her own individual freedoms and ambitions, the Framers believed, he or she is more likely to reach their highest potential. The rule of law. According to this principle, no government official is above the law. Both majority rule, the idea that the candidate with more than half of votes cast or more votes than any other candidate wins, and minority rights, the political rights of those who make up less than half of the population, are respected. o This mutual protection of rights is an example of how American democracy is also a liberal democracy, a form of democracy that protects the rights of the minority. Compromise is key to the success of democracy. Faced with the diverse needs and wants of Americans, opposing groups in government must compromise in order to continue the political process. The participation of citizens. People must educate themselves on issues in order to vote wisely, hold their leaders accountable, protest what they consider wrongful government actions, and generally be as involved as possible in the political process. LANDMARK SUPREME COURT CASES Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on a number of cases concerning democratic ideals and principles. In Gideon v. Wainwright, the Court considered whether the right to counsel was necessary to guarantee a defendant’s liberty and ensure equality under the law. Read together p. 24 FREE ENTERPRISE Economic freedom is the basis of the American free enterprise system, which allows people and businesses to make their own economic choices about how best to produce, distribute, and exchange goods and services. Furthermore, free enterprise protects the products and services a person produces and his or her other private property. In this kind of free market, the government is largely uninvolved. The theory behind this design is that with little government interference, people and businesses will compete to offer better products at lower prices. As the American economy has evolved, some government intervention has become necessary; however, the national economy remains mainly open. Adam Smith defended the idea of free economy in his book, Wealth of Nations. He argued that a free economy could produce far more wealth than an economy regulated by governmental laws. His arguments rested on 3 laws of economics. 1. The law of self interest = people act for selfish reasons 2. The law of competition = competitive forces people to make better products 3. The law of supply and demand = when supply exceeds demand, some would be driven out of business until supply equals demand. In a market economy where natural laws were free to operate, plenty of goods would be produced at the lowest possible price. But if government interfered in the economy, none of the natural laws could operate. Laissez- faire: refers to the economic policy of letting owners of industry and business set working conditions without interferences. Does the US have a totally laissez-faire economy? No, we have some government control. ex. monopolies. CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT • Our nation’s Founders struggled with how best to prevent government abuse of power. • Their answer was to establish a constitutional government that protected individual rights by placing limits on what government can do and how it can exercise power. See page 26 & 27 • What is a constitution? • How did the Founders characterize higher law? • Why did the Founders fear government abuse of power? • What kinds of governments may be constitutional governments?
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