I. What is Politics?
II. Why Study Politics?
I. What is Politics
Any good definitions? How about some ideas about what politics is? Here’s one
famous definition: “Who gets what, when, and where.”
My favorite is: “The process by which authoritative decisions are made.”
Some things to remember:
Politics does not always involve government. Usually whenever there are decisions
being made, politics are involved. There are many types of politics: family politics,
office politics, etc.. So this class deals with government politics. It is important to
remember that politics takes place in many spheres of life.
The purpose of this class is to get you to understand American politics. But it’s
important to realize that politics is different everywhere. A course in Chinese politics
would be very different, as would one in Russian, or Japanese. For example: let’s think
about how politics differs in other places/countries:
-Who is involved
-How leaders are chosen
-The extent and reach of state power
-The presence or absence of competitive political organizations
And these are just som basics—we can think of a lot of other things
In the past, people used to say the US was better than the Soviet Union. Why? Because
they were judged to be different. In what ways?
Russia was said to be bad because:
1. other political parties are illegal
2. most businesses were owned by the state, with state taking most of the money or
3. no private property, state owns everything
4. no free press
5. no trial by jury, no civil liberties
6. police brutality
7. military involvement in civil affairs
8. no independent parties or interest groups
II. The next question is why study politics: The reason people study business, math, or
science or other topics is because it is needed to make money, or to better equip you to
get a job.
For you, the answer is simple. College is supposed to be about more than just getting a
job. It'’ also supposed to be about becoming a better person—a good citizen. Now, this
is different from the stuff you have learned prior to this. Well, let’s go through your
political education up until now.
In your first civics class in elementary school, what did you learn?
1. the US was a great place to live
2. Why? Because we were free right? And we were bigger and stronger than most
3. we have free and open elections and we can all participate and this makes sure that
our leaders take our views into consideration when they make political decisions
Next, you were in high school. And you learned a little about:
1. How a bill becomes law, what institutions and players are involved, how the president
is elected, how old you have to be to vote, become president, etc.. And other basic
facs like the fact that T Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and that
James Madison wrothe the constitition.
This was nice, but this class wishes to go beyond this and teach you to do the following
things. And this is what you are here for.
Give you the tools to understand American politics. To see what is actually going on and
to be able to understand it. In addition, we also want you to be able to understand the
different the role of the three branches of government etc.
The bottom line is that this class can make you more politically sophisticated than the
average person or do you think this is all crap?
If you don’t buy any of this, and you think that being a politically sophisticated person is
useless, there are still two other big reasons to study and understand politics. The biggest
The GOVERNMENT takes a lot of your money every year. You pay the government in
taxes and fees. Now the income tax hovers around 30-35% of your annual income. They
take your money and they spend it. This is reason enough to be informed. What
government does affects you.
If you pay attention to the news, almost all the things you read about have to do with
money. The question becomes: How do they spend your money???
Everything the government does costs money. And in many countries the leaders just
spendthe money without asking people what they think. This is what is so great about
America—we have input as to how this money is spent, where, and by whom. Ultimately
in the US, the people who spend our money are accountable to us. As you will learn, we
have the power to remove them if we don’t like what they are doing, right?
Thus I say that this is the essence of American politics—our leaders are taking our
money, and deciding how to spend it. Politics is how thes decisions are made. And as
we shall se, these politics are complex, confusing, and interesting.
II. Why are you here, Why do you have to take this class?
As far as I know, everyone must take this class, it is a requirment for UT students. When
we ask why people take pre-med, or go to law school, or businees, or accounting, it is
pretty obvious what these majors are good for: They train people to go out and get good
jobs. The same can be said for other classes/majors: You take writing because it is
assumed that at some point your job will force you to be able to communicate, And
math, because perhaps you may have to add some figures at some point during your work
But why on earth do you have to take political science? Now no one really goes out and
becomes a political scientist. And political siceice is a worthless major on the job
Well, believe it or not, the idea here is that understanding how American politics work, is
so important that we must foce everyone in college to take a class in it. Amazaing. It is
supposed to make you a better citizen. Can you believ that?
There is nothing you can think of that the government is not somehow involved in!! The
government is involved in everything.
Took a shower this morining—the water was delivered by the utility company which is
heavily regulated by the government
The food we ate for breakfast, has freshness date that is regulated by law, or at a
resturant, by the county health department
Drove your car, and the maker of the car, whether it is a Hyundai or a Honda, is regulated
by the government.
The roads you drove on are built by the government and the traffic lights are also placed
by the government
This school is regulated by government.