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PO 111: INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN POLITICS Summer I (2014) Claire Leavitt Boston University.

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Presentation on theme: "PO 111: INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN POLITICS Summer I (2014) Claire Leavitt Boston University."— Presentation transcript:

1 PO 111: INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN POLITICS Summer I (2014) Claire Leavitt Boston University

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS The early United States: Limited state, strong civil society Government in the early 19 th century: Continuing debates over federalism Expansions of public social benefits Explanations: Why does America have a smaller welfare state than European democracies? –Cultural –Psychological –Political What have we learned?

3 THE STATE A political organization, composed of various institutions –Authority that citizens accept and consent to –Centralized authority –Must be the only entity that can legitimately enforce the law Max Weber claimed America in its earliest years did not have a state –Not centralized –Not enough power to enforce the laws it made

4 AMERICAN POLITICAL LIFE: THEN AND NOW Now: –Dominated by formal federal institutions (presidency, Congress, the Courts, administrative bureaucracy) Then: –Dominated by the court system (esp. state and local courts) and political parties –Courts increased their power –Congress and the presidency more concerned with how to govern than with taking advantage of their powers

5 AMERICAN POLITICAL LIFE: THEN AND NOW Limited federal state, limited acceptance of the role of executives and legislatures Strong civil society –Associational life organized through non- governmental institutions like churches, community groups, fraternal societies, households –Civil society the backbone of early American political life

6 AMERICAN POLITICAL LIFE: THEN AND NOW Tocqueville: Americans took freedoms for granted; liberty did not have to be “won” No conservative tradition in America (European definition): –Fealty to the status quo and skepticism/fear of change –Belief in the burden of the aristocracy to provide for society –Change should be incremental and deliberate

7 AMERICAN POLITICAL LIFE: THEN AND NOW Modern American conservatism is in fact dedicated toward protection of liberalism –Wary of social change; concerned with protection of individual liberties first and foremost American liberalism centered around religion –Religion was embraced because it was separate from the state

8 AMERICAN POLITICAL LIFE: THEN AND NOW Religion in Europe: –Reformation and Thirty Years’ War –Peace of Westphalia (1648) created nation- states based on ethnic and religious affiliation –States must be protected from religion Religion in America: –Religious leaders vital to independence from Britain –Religion must be protected from the state

9 AMERICAN POLITICAL LIFE: THEN AND NOW Dangers to American stability: –Tyranny of the state –Tyranny of individualism: Materialism would lead to concentrations of wealth and belief in the moral superiority of the rich Tocqueville believed a strong civil society would protect America from these threats

10 EXPANSIONS OF THE STATE War of 1812; recognition of procedural and administrative gaps in US government –Patronage appointees increased party power –Judicial review increased courts’ power Continued debates over the role of the central state: –Nullification Crisis –The Civil War

11 EXPANSIONS OF THE STATE Civil War pensions: first major expansion of public social spending –War illuminated a shared crisis that the government should take steps to protect citizens from –Enrollment in Civil War pension program increased markedly; parties used program as a vote-getter –Pension program was far-reaching and covered a diverse socioeconomic population –Ended when war veterans died out

12 EXPANSIONS OF THE STATE Expansion of social programs over the course of the twentieth century: –New Deal: Social Security and jobs programs –Great Society: Medicare and Medicaid –National crises changed the norm of government intervention in American life; weakened the capacities of civil society institutions

13 WHY DOES AMERICA HAVE A SMALL WELFARE STATE? Cultural explanations (discussed): –Lack of social revolution; limited government; strong civil society; faith in the private sector –Higher rates of volunteer work and charitable giving in US than in Europe Psychological explanations (racism): –Long history of assumptions of racial inferiority –Low levels of inter-group trust and high levels of diversity

14 WHY DOES AMERICA HAVE A SMALL WELFARE STATE? Political explanations: –Fragmented state makes progress laborious –Due to the passion and power of interest groups, progress tends to be targeted to specific constituencies –Interest group pressure explains why some public benefit programs succeed and others do not (education versus health care)

15 WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED? How do federal institutions push back against one another? –Will the Edward Snowden case change the norm of increased executive power? How do the states push back against the federal government? What do you think is the most powerful branch of government?

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