Presentation on theme: "In this chapter, you will look at how government decisions are made. You will consider how citizens participate in government and how government policies."— Presentation transcript:
In this chapter, you will look at how government decisions are made. You will consider how citizens participate in government and how government policies are shaped by cultural beliefs. You will also look at how government decisions and international issues are often influenced by different points of view.
How are government decisions and international issues shaped by different points of view?
Decision-Making Process Government Policy Point of View Cultural Beliefs Patriotism Nationalism
A. Governments often make decisions. Government officials usually follow a logical decision making process to make them: Identify a problem; Gather information; List various options; Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each option; Choose and implement a solution; Evaluate the effectiveness of the solution.
B. A government policy consists of a series of decisions and actions on a particular issue or topic. C. Different points of view frequently influence the development of public policies and decisions. This occurs at the local, state, and national levels of government.
D. Cultural beliefs, such as nationalism and patriotism, influence citizenship practices, public policies and decision-making processes. E. Different points of view also affect policies and decision-making at the international level, between nations.
Governments frequently have to make important decisions affecting thousands or even millions of people. For example:
The steps one should follow to make a good decision are known as the decision-making process. In order to make decisions, government officials usually follow a similar process.
First, government officials identify a need or a problem. For example, the government may need to protect citizens against acts of terrorism.
Next, government officials must gather and analyze information. They could look at terrorist acts committed in the United States and elsewhere. They could make a list of known terrorist leaders and organizations. A government might use satellite surveillance, undercover agents, exchanges of information with foreign governments, and similar steps to obtain information about these terrorist groups – including their leaders, their goals and activities, and their strengths and weaknesses.
Next, government officials will consider different ways of meeting the need or solving the problem. They will think of all their options for dealing with terrorists. At one extreme, they could attack countries where terrorists reside or are protected by the government in power. At the other extreme, they could do nothing and hope the problem will eventually resolve itself.
Usually government leaders can think of a number of policy options between these two extremes:
Government officials now consider the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Every option usually has both benefits and costs. For example, eavesdropping on the telephone conversations and e-mail correspondence of suspected terrorists may yield valuable information about the next possible terrorist threat, potentially saving thousands of innocent lives. On the other hand, this practice may infringe on traditional liberties of American citizens, specifically protected in the U.S. Constitution.
Finally, officials select one policy option or combination of options. Then they apply this approach to the problem and evaluate its effectiveness. They assess whether this proposed solution works and whether it creates new problems of its own.
When government leaders make decisions affecting millions of people, it is important for them to consider different points of view.
Government officials will usually consult with different advisors and experts on the subject. For example, to decide how to deal with terrorism, U.S. leaders might interview specialists who have studied terrorism. They would also question generals and other officers who have been active in military operations against terrorists. Undercover agents who secretly penetrated terrorist organizations might be asked for their views and ideas on the situation. U.S. leaders might further ask for the advice and suggestions of close allies and other countries. Officials might even decide to approach some international organizations, such as the United Nations.
Democratic governments like the United States are generally very open to different points of view. Because democratic government leaders are elected, they need to be able to explain their policy choices to the public. There is usually a lively public discussion on key issues.
Leaders also come to office with special viewpoints based on their own backgrounds and interests. If a lawyer who has defended clients against evidence from wiretapping is elected to public office, she may view the problem of wiretapping differently from someone who was a former prosecutor. When a legislature, such as the U.S. Congress, looks at an issue, it usually reflects many different points of view. These leaders are often subject to a range of influences. Such influences include direct lobbying efforts, corporate political action groups, issue advertising, and pressure from constituents in their home district.
For example, some members of Congress have been elected by farmers or farm equipment makers. They often see issues from the farmers’ point of view. Other Congressional members may have been supported by oil companies, labor unions, or other groups. Each representative will look at issues in part from these particular points of view. This variety of viewpoints occurs not just at the federal level, but at the state and local level as well.
Non-democratic forms of government, such as monarchies, dictatorships, and theocracies, are less open than democracies to participation by ordinary citizens. They are less concerned about public opinion than democratic leaders are. As a result, their leaders do not always take into account different points of view.
Citizen practices also differ between governments. In a republic or democracy, citizens play an active role in government. They hold their leaders accountable for their actions, and expect that government will be sensitive to the will of the majority. They hold elected office, vote for officials, join political parties, and exchange ideas in free assemblies and through a free press.
In other forms of government, citizens do not usually enjoy the same rights. In a totalitarian dictatorship, citizens can participate in government, but only by joining the ruling party. They cannot lawfully speak out against the dictator.
Dictatorial governments often stage mass rallies, parades and other demonstrations to show that the dictator enjoys widespread support. Participants in these exciting, government- sponsored events may become caught up in waves of mass enthusiasm in support of the government. Government propaganda on television, in news articles, and in schools continuously tells citizens how good their government is, and paint any opposition as being disloyal or unpatriotic. The government may hold elections, but the candidates always follow the ruling party line.
Cultural beliefs can have a tremendous impact on government decision-making. If all the members of a culture share certain beliefs, then those shared beliefs will shape government decisions.
For example, all government leaders in China are members of the Chinese Communist Party. Although China has welcomed free enterprise in its economy, it does not allow rival political parties. Because all Chinese government leaders share the belief that Communist Part rule provides the best government for China, it is unlikely that they will permit opposition parties or dissension in the near future. Their shared political culture thus affects their decision-making.
In another example, the Vietnamese have feared their larger and dominating neighbor, China, as an enemy for most of their history. These fears have been memorialized in many Vietnamese folk songs and legends. These long held cultural beliefs sometimes affect decisions today by the Vietnamese government regarding its relations with China.
Patriotism and nationalism are two particular cultural beliefs that often influence citizenship practices.
Patriotism is loyalty and support for one’s country. It is the belief that citizens should obey their country’s laws and rally to its defense. People’s attitudes often differ about the value of patriotism.
Some acts of patriotism produce great admiration even among foreigners. For example, many people admire those Dutch soldiers who died in an attempt to halt the Nazi army from invading the Netherlands in 1940. On the other hand, invading Nazi soldiers also felt that they were engaged in a patriotic act by fighting on behalf of Germany. Yet few admire these Nazi soldiers because of the brutality of the Nazi regime.
Nationalism is the belief that each people or ethnic group, known as a “nation,” should have its own government and nation-state. In established nation-states, nationalism is often the belief that one’s country is among the very best countries in the world. Some nationalists feel their nation is so superior that they have the right to take territory from or to even rule over others.
Like other cultural beliefs, patriotism and nationalism can have profound effects on government policies and decision-making. For example, if a country is attacked, patriotic feelings will encourage its people to defend themselves against the aggressor. Nationalist feelings may lead a country to commit acts of aggression, such as attacking weaker neighbors or seizing oversea colonies.
Nationalist feelings may also discourage a country’s leaders from cooperating in international associations. Nationalism can be a constructive or destructive force. It can help harness national energies, but in multi-ethnic states, the nationalist feelings of minority groups can tear the country apart.
In dealing with international issues, it is especially important for government leaders to consider other viewpoints. Each side is often influenced by its own cultural beliefs, individual interests, and history. It’s difficult to reach a compromise or a solution if the different sides do not understand each other’s point of view.
Different viewpoints on important issues can best be seen by examining a few of the major “hot button” issues in our world today.
The Soviet Union was formed after the Russian Revolution in 1917. In 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved into several independent states. The largest of these was Russia. Within Russia, there are still several ethnic minorities.
One such ethnic minority are the Chechens, who live in the region of the southern Caucasus Mountains. Many Chechens sought independence from Russia. In 1991, Chechen separatist declared their independence from Russia. This was followed by a series of terrorist bombings. These terrorist acts led the Russian army to enter Chechnya to restore Russian rule by force in 1999.
The Chechen people have their own language and traditions. They have a long history of fighting against foreign rule. The Chechen population numbers over a million people. Many Chechens are Muslims.
Chechen separatists feel that Chechnya has the right to be independent. Chechens accuse the Russian army of committing human rights violations against their people. Thousands of Chechens have been killed or have lost their homes under brutal Russian treatment.
Russians point out that every modern nation has some minorities that would like to be independent. Each ethnic minority cannot be given its own state, or modern nations will all disintegrate into a world of mini-states. Even the United States once used force against seceding Southern States to preserve its unity.
Russians fear that if they given Chechens self- government, other regions in Russia with minority ethnic groups will also demand their independence. Russians further point out that the Chechens have used terrorism in their efforts at independence.
For example, in 2004, Chechen separatists seized a school and killed almost 200 children. They fear ethnic Russians in an independent Chechnya would be abused. Finally, the Russians point out that some Chechen separatists have even cooperated with the Al Qaeda terrorist organization.
The modern State of Israel traces its historical and religious roots back to Biblical times. However, it was not until 1948 that Israel was established by the United Nations as a permanent homeland for the Jewish people. At the same time, many Arab Palestinians were also living in that area. Arab nations refused to recognize the creation of Israel. In 1948, they launched an attack on Israel, but were quickly defeated. Some 725,000 Palestinians fled Israel to neighboring Arab countries or were expelled from their homes.
War erupted again in 1967, Israel defeated its enemies in six days and acquired the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golden Heights from Syria. Egypt and Syria launched another surprise attack on Israel in 1973. Israel again repelled Arab forces.
The West Bank and Gaza Strip were later established as a home for Palestinians. Palestinian uprisings in these territories were followed by Israeli military occupations. Both sides accuse the other of atrocities. A Palestinian Authority was established, but Israelis and Palestinian groups still refuse to accept the existence of Israel, while Israel has repeatedly occupied Palestinian territory. Israelis and Palestinians also disagree on many specific issues, such as the future of Jerusalem.
Many Israelis feel that Israel cannot be secure so long as some Palestinian groups continue to fire missiles at civilian Israeli targets. They believe that only a strong military defense can insure their survival against future attacks. Some Israelis further fear that an independent Palestinian state might be hostile to Israel and provide a home to terrorists or even someday invade Israel. Other Israelis, however, feel that some compromise with moderate Palestinians is vital to Israel’s future and is the only way to achieve secure borders.
Palestinians feel that they were forced to move from Israel in 1948. They contend that this was their land, and that the United Nations had no right to give this land to Israel. Most Palestinians are now willing to accept the independence of Israel, but they oppose continued expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas. They resent the Israeli occupations, and feel that Israelis have not made a genuine effort to achieve peace. Some Palestinians justify acts of terrorism as the only effective way to resist Israel’s superior and highly mechanized military force. Moderate Palestinians hope to reach a compromise with Israel.
Many world leaders suspect that Iran is developing nuclear weapons under the pretext of building nuclear plants to supply their nation with electricity. The United States and United Nations have imposed severe economic and political sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt its nuclear enrichment program. Sanctions are strict measures used by a country or group of countries to pressure another nation-state to modify its behavior. For example, an economic sanction might impose a ban on trade with that country.
Iranians claim they are a major power in the Middle East. They say they need to enrich uranium to build nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes: for example, as a source of future energy, and for radiation therapy to treat cancer patients. Iran’s religious leaders have issued a decree banning nuclear weapons. Iran further claims that it is hypocritical for countries like the United States to actually have nuclear weapons and then to criticize Iran for supposedly seeking to develop them.
Critics say that Iran is stockpiling refined uranium in order to conceal wits own plans to develop nuclear weapons. They say that as a major producer of oil, Iran does not need to develop nuclear energy at this time. They further claim that Iran’s government is untrustworthy- for example, it used brutal force against citizens peacefully protesting irregularities in its 2009 presidential election. Critics fear Iran’s government might threaten Israel with its nuclear bombs, or sell nuclear weapons to Islamic terrorists, further destabilizing the region. They point out that Iran has repeatedly violated United Nations rules. Furthermore, if Iran does acquire nuclear weapons, this would pressure its neighbors in the region to do the same. Other countries would feel compelled to obtain nuclear arms to prevent Iran from upsetting the current “balance of power” in the Middle East.