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The Study of American Government Chapter 1

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1 The Study of American Government Chapter 1
United States Government and Politics

2 What is Government? What does the word government mean?
Why is a government essential? What services should it provide? What services does it provide?

3 Division: A Source of “Politics”
Why does politics exist? What two questions define it? Politics exists in part because people differ about two things: who should govern, and the ends toward which they should work.

4 Who Governs? Who governs?
What is done to us and for us may depend on who governs. Identifying who governs can be difficult. Competing views cannot all be correct. We believe that those who rule- their personalities and beliefs, their virtues and vices- will affect what they do to and for us. People think they know the answer and are prepared to talk and vote that way. That is their right and may be correct but also may be wrong. Many opinions must be wrong because they are in conflict. Who governs? Some says unions, big business, politicians, the people, special interests, Wall Street, military, the media, white males. All can not be correct all the time.

5 To What Ends? Government affects our lives in many ways.
This can be seen in larger, long perspectives. 1935 (Income Tax) 1960 (race) What difference does it make who governs? In our daily lives many thing government does not matter at all. They are right in sense because personal concerns (work, play, love, family, health) are private matters the government barely touches on. 1935: 96% of all American families paid no federal income tax, 4% who did only paid 4% of their incomes. Today almost all families pay federal payroll taxes (average 21% of their income) 1960: African Americans could only ride in the back of buses, use drinking fountains and bathrooms labeled “colored” and were not served in most public restaurants. Today restrictions have been eliminated by decisions of the federal government.

6 Who governs does not necessarily determine to what ends . . . .
You cannot always predict what goals government will establish knowing only who governs If we thought that how can you explain : Why the rich are taxed more heavily than the poor Why the War on Poverty was declared Why constitutional amendments giving rights to African Americans & women passed by large majorities Why other religions have been appointed to many governmental posts Most people holding national political office are middle-class, middle-aged, white Protestant males, but we cannot be narrow minded to thing that government will only adopt policies for the middle-class, middle-aged, white, Protestants, or men.

7 Why Government Matters
Based on a survey from historians and professors, the government’s top 10 post-1950 achievements: Rebuilt Europe after WWII Expanded the right to vote Promoted equal access to public accommodations Reduced disease Reduced workplace discrimination Ensured safe food & drinking water Strengthened the nation’s highway system Increased access to health care for older Americans Reduced the federal budget deficit Promoted financial security in retirement

8 What is Political Power?
Authority Legitimacy

9 What is Political Power?
Power definition Can be exercised in an obvious or subtle manner Examples Can be found in all human relationships Recognition that, increasingly, matter once considered “private” are considered “public” Examples Then & Now Power: The ability of one person to get another person to act in accordance with the first person’s intentions. Obvious: president sends soldiers into combat. Subtle: President’s junior speech writers adopt a new tone when writing about controversial issues. If he uses their words they have used power. Human relationships but only concerned with power that is used to affect who will hold government office and how government will behave. Corporation closes a factory in a small town where it was a major employer (power deeply affects the lives of the people). University refuses to admit a student. Private to public: Almost every aspect of human life has found its way onto the governmental agenda : the federal government would have displayed no interest in a factory closing its doors, a university refusing an applicant; now government actions can and do affect all these things. Now: Bailouts, cash for clunkers, home foreclosures,

10 What is Political Power?
Authority definition Normally easier to exercise power with a claim of right “Formal authority” when vested in a government office Authority: The right to use power We accept decisions, often without question, if they are made by people who we believe have the right to make them. “Formal Authority”: The right to exercise power vested in a governmental office (president, senator, federal judge)

11 What is Political Power?
Legitimacy definition Historical struggles over what constitutes legitimate authority 2004 election & gay marriage Our sense of legitimacy is tied to the desire for democratic government 1787 Constitution Today Legitimacy: What makes a law or constitution a source of right U.S. Constitution today is widely, if not unanimously, accepted as a source of legitimate authority, but was not always the case Historical struggles: Constitutional Convention of 1787 was an effort to see whether a new, more powerful federal government could be made legitimate, Civil War bloody struggle over the legitimacy of the federal union, The New Deal of FDR was debated by those who disagreed over whether it was legitimate for the federal government to intervene deeply in the economy, Today: Bailouts 2004 election citizens who agreed on the issue of gay marriage, disagreed over whether it was legitimate to address the issue through an amendment to the Constitution that banned it nationally or whether the matter ought to be left for each state to decide. All Americans seem to agree that no exercise of political power by government at any level is legitimate if it is not in some sense democratic. In 1787 the Constitution was being debated, Hamilton worried that the new government he helped create might be too democratic while George Mason, refused to sign the Constitution because he was worried that it was not democratic enough. Today, almost everyone believes that democratic government is the only proper kind. Most believe the American government is democratic. Some believe all institutions should be democratic (schools, universities, corporations, churches) if they want to be legitimate. Some insist that promoting democracy abroad ought to be a primary purpose of U.S. foreign policy.

12 What is Democracy? Describe the meaning.
What is the cartoonist’s message? Agree or disagree with the message? What does cartoon say about democracy?

13 American Democracy: Basic Ideals & Principles
Popular Consent or Popular Sovereignty Respect for the Individual Equality of Opportunity Personal Liberty Rule of Law

14 What is Democracy? 1st Definition
Aristotelian “rule of the many” (direct or participatory democracy) 4th century B.C. Greek city-state or polis New England town meeting Abandoned as size of towns increased and issues became more complex A government is democratic if all, or most, of its citizens participate directly in either holding office or making policy, often called direct or participatory democracy. In 4th century B.C. this type of government was possible. The Greek city-state was small and within it citizenship was extended to all free adult male property holders. (Slaves, women, minors, and those without property were excluded from participation in government). More recent times, the New England town meeting is similar to the Aristotelian ideal. The meeting would consist of adult citizens of a community would gather once or twice a year to vote directly on all major issues and expenditures of the town. As towns became larger and issues grew more complicated, many town governments abandoned the pure town meeting in favor of either the representative town meeting (in which a large number of elected representatives meet to vote on town affairs) or representative government (in which a small number of elected city councilors make decision).

15 What is Democracy? 2nd Definition
Acquisition of power by leaders via competitive elections (representative democracy) Joseph Schumpeter Sometimes disapprovingly referred to as elitist theory Justifications of representative democracy Direct democracy can be impractical The people are affected by passions and demagogues Demagogues- A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace Concern about direct democracy today Principle of governance of most nations that are called democratic. Joseph Schumpeter: Economists, “The democratic method is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals [that is, leaders] acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote.” Often referred to as representative democracy from those who approve, those would disapprove call it an elitist theory of democracy. 2 arguments: 1st: It is impractical, owing to limits of time, information, energy, interest, and expertise, for the people to decide on public policy. It is not practical to expect them to make reasonable choices among competing leadership groups. 2nd: Some people, including Framers of the Constitution) believe that direct democracy is likely to lead to bad decisions, because people often decide large issues on the basis of fleeting passions and in response to popular demagogues (A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace). Concern about today: Statements from leaders who do not like what voters have decided. Example: Voters in Michigan rejected a referendum that would increase public funding for private schools. Politicians who agreed with voters spoke of “the will of the people”, politicians who disagreed with the voters decision spoke about “mass misunderstanding”.

16 Is Representative Democracy Best?
The Constitution does not contain the word democracy but the phrase “republican form of government” Representative democracy requires genuine competition for leadership Individuals & parties must be able to run for office Communication must be free Voters must perceive meaningful choices And other important questions - with multiple answers - remain regarding the number of offices, how many officials (elected & appointed), the financing campaigns, etc. Framers of the Constitution did not include the word democracy but instead wrote “republican for of government” which meant for the U.S. to be called “representative democracy”. For representative democracy to work there must be an opportunity for genuine competition for leadership. 1. Individuals & parties must be able to run for office 2. Communication (through speeches pr the press & in meetings) must be free 3. Voters must perceive meaningful choices exist 4. And other important questions How many office should be elective? How many appointed? How many candidates or parties can exist before the choices become hopelessly confused? Where will the money come from to finance electoral campaigns?

17 Is Representative Democracy Best?
Virtues of direct democracy can be reclaimed through Community control Citizen participation Some argue that the virtues of direct or participatory democracy can and should be reclaimed even in modern, complex society. Community control: Allowing individual neighborhoods in big cities to govern themselves. Citizen Participation: By requiring those affected by some government program to participate in its formulation. In many states a measure of direct democracy exists when voters can decide on referendum issues-that is, policy choices that appear on the ballot (casinos & gambling Ohio). The proponents of direct democracy defend it as the only way to ensure that the “will of the people” prevails.

18 Is Representative Democracy Best?
Framers did not think the “will of people” was synonymous with the “common interest” or the “public good”. They strongly favored representative over direct democracy Government should mediate, not mirror, popular views Assumed citizens would have limited time, information, & interest Feared demagogues could easily manipulate fears & prejudices of the masses Preferred a slow moving government Framers’ Goal: representative democracy minimized chance that power would be abused by a popular majority or self-serving officeholders Elected officials should represent, not register, majority sentiments Framers thought citizens did not have the expertise to make reasonable choices among competing policy positions. Suspected higher educated people could manipulate Representative democracy often proceeds slowly & prevents sweeping changes in policy, but cautioned that a government capable of doing great good quickly also can do great harm quickly. Agreed that majority opinion should figure in the enactment of many or most government policies, but insisted that the protection of civil rights & civil liberties (rights & freedoms) ought never hinge on a popular vote. Embraced representative democracy 2. Were the Framers right? Framers assumed that direct democracy was impractical & likely to lead to bad decisions, were they correct for their time? Today, do people have more time, information, energy, interest, and expertise, or more ability to gather together for collective decision-making then when the Constitution was adopted? Internet has vastly expanded access to political information as well as how little most people consume political news. Should American political history be read to justify or disregard the Framers’ faith in a representative democracy?

19 Is Representative Democracy Best?
But were the Framers right? Are their assumptions about direct democracy applicable today? Has representative democracy really protected minority rights and prevented politicians from using public offices for private gain? “So How Democratic Are We?”

20 How is Political Power Distributed?
Scholars differ in their interpretations of history Focus on actual distribution of power within American representative democracy Some scholars see a steady march of democracy, others see no such thing. Some emphasis how voting and other rights have been steadily expanded, others stress how they were denied to so many for so long. Redefined representative democracy: Any system of government in which leaders are authorized to make decision & wield political power, by winning competitive struggle for the popular vote. Many different sets of hands control government: What kinds of people can become leaders How the struggle for votes is carried on How much freedom to act is given to those who win the struggle What other sorts of influence affect the leaders’ actions

21 How is Political Power Distributed?
Variation in representative democracy Majoritarian politics Leaders constrained to follow wishes of the people very closely Applies when issues are simple, clear, & feasible Non-majoritarian (or Elite) politics Sometimes the opinion of the people is not known, or even consulted The shaping of policy detail probably reflects opinions of those who are more informed & motivated to participate The number of those who are informed & motivated is probably small They are probably not representative of the population as a whole Elites definition Majoritarian politics: Elected officials are the delegates of the people, acting as the people (or majority of them) would act were the matter put to a popular vote. Simple: Important enough to command attention of most citizens Clear: To elicit an informed opinion from citizens Feasible: To address so that what citizens want done can in fact be done When circumstances do not permit majoritarian decision making it is known as Non-majoritarian (or Elite) politics. Then some group of officials will have to act without knowing or caring exactly what people want. Issues that do evoke an opinion from a majority of citizens, will only shape the details of a policy from those views of people who are sufficiently motivated to go to the trouble of becoming active participants in policy-making. The motivated group will be small and therefore will be an unrepresented minority and do not represent the majority opinion. The actual distribution of political power, in a democracy, will depend importantly on the composition of the political elites who are actually involved in the struggles over policy. Elites: An identifiable group of person who possess a disproportionate amount of political power.

22 Four Theories of Elite Influence
Marxism: Government merely a reflection of underlying economic forces Marxists hold that in modern societies: Two economic classes contend for power – Capitalists (business owners or the “bourgeoise”) Workers (laborers or the “proletariat”). Which ever class dominates the economy also controls the government, which is, nothing more than a piece of machinery designed to express & give legal effect to underlying class interest. In the U.S. Marxist state capitalists (especially big business & multinational corporations in U.S.) have generally dominated the economy & government. Marxist view is that government, even if democratic form, is merely a reflection of underlying economic forces. View that the government is dominated by capitalist.

23 Four Theories of Elite Influence
C. Wright Mills: Mid-20th century American sociologist Power elite composed of corporate leaders, generals, & politicians Closely related to Marxism Coalition of 3 groups dominate politics & government Corporate leaders Top military officers Handful of elected officials Today, some add major communications media chiefs, top labor union officials, heads to special interest groups to his list Power elite view: View that government is dominated by a few top leaders, most of whom are outside of government & enjoy great advantages in wealth, status, or organizational position.

24 Four Theories of Elite Influence
Max Weber: Founder of Sociology All institutions, governmental and nongovernmental, have fallen under the control of large bureaucracies bureaucracies based on expertise, specialized competence Capitalists or workers may come to power or coalitions of elites, but government they create and laws they enact will be dominated by bureaucrats who staff & operate the government on a daily basis Bureaucratic view definition Power not in hands of elected representatives, but in appointed officials or career government workers, who are invisible to the average citizen, who can exercise vast power by deciding how to translate public laws into administrative actions Government bureaucrats do not implement public policies, but effectively “make” policies that best suit their own ideas and interests Bureaucratic view that the government is dominated by appointed officials

25 Four Theories of Elite Influence
Pluralists: Power is widely dispersed & no single elite has monopoly on it Policies are the outline of bargaining, compromise and shifting alliances Suggests that big business, elites, bureaucrats may dominate but political resources (money, prestige, expertise, organizational position, access to mass media) are so widely scattered in American society that no single elite has monopoly on them Point out that in American governmental institutions in which power may be exercised (city, state, & federal), which includes mayors, managers, legislators, governors, presidents, judges, no single group could dominate the political process. All elites must bargain & compromise while being responsive to followers

26 Is Democracy Driven by Self Interest?
Elite Theories & Cynicism All four theories suggest politics is a self-seeking enterprise Some important qualifications Policies may not be wholly self serving Alexis de Tocqueville ”Americans…are fond of explaining almost all the actions of their lives by the principle of self-interest rightly understood…In this respect I think they frequently fail to do themselves justice; for in the United States as well as elsewhere people are sometimes seen to give way to those disinterested and spontaneous impulses that are natural to man; but the Americans seldom admit that they yield to emotions of this kind; they are more anxious to do honor to their philosophy than to themselves.” Some cynics believe that politics is a self-seeking enterprise in which everybody is out for personal gain. There are some self-serving political elites, but it does not necessarily follow that the resulting policies will be wholly self-serving. Nor does it follow that democracy itself is driven mainly or solely by people’s motives or selfish desires. Policies may be good or bad independent of the motives of a person who decided it. Self-interest of individuals is often an incomplete guide to their actions. Caution against the cynical explanation of politics that Americans seem especially prone to adopt. Read Tocqueville quote The belief that people will usually act on the basis of their self-interest is a theory to be tested, not an assumption to be made.

27 Is Democracy Driven by Self Interest?
Democracy may be driven by other motives & desires September 11 & self-interest AFL-CIO & civil rights Some act against long odds & without the certainty of benefit 1. How did people act during September 11th? Were they acting in their own self-interest? ’s leaders of AFL-CIO in Washington were among the most influential forces lobbying Congress for the passage of certain civil rights bills. The leaders did not stand to benefit either personally (they were almost all white) or organizationally (labor union members were not enthusiastic about it). To understand why they did this, it is not enough to know their incomes or jobs, but one must know about their attitudes, their allies, and the temper of the times. Political preferences cannot invariably be predicted simply by knowing economic or organizational position. d) Another reason to resist interpreting American democracy as if it were always & everywhere driven by narrowly self-interested individuals & groups is that many of the most important political happenings in U.S. history- the revolutionary movement of the 1770s & 1780s, the battle for civil rights in the 1950s & 1960s- were led against long odds by people who risked much knowing that they might not succeed and if it did , generations might pass before their efforts truly benefited anyone. Self-interest is in politics but so are ideas about the common good & public-spirited behavior.

28 What Explains Political Change?
Great shifts in character of government reflect change in elite or mass beliefs about what government is supposed to do Growth in federal power & subsequent attempts to cut back Variations in levels of interest in international affairs Politics about views of the public interest, not just who gets what If you were alive in 1861… Great shifts in the character of our government- its size, scope, institutional arrangements, and the direction of its policies- have reflected complex and sometimes sudden changes in elite or mass beliefs about what government is supposed to do. s it was assumed that the federal government would play a small role in our lives. 1930s-1970s it was assumed that federal government would try to solve whatever social or economic problem existed the administration of Ronald Reagan sought to reverse the assumption and cut back on the taxes the federal government levied, the money it spent, & the regulations it imposed. But what happened was the growth of federal power after 1932 and the effort to cut back on that power starting in 1981. 2. U.S. has taken an active interest in the outside world a) Nation founded: France & England seemed to have it in their power to determine whether or not America would survive as a nation. b) 1840s: When we sought to expand the nation into areas where Mexico & Canada had claims c) 1890s: When many leaders believed we had an obligation to acquire an overseas empire in the Caribbean & the Pacific. d) 1940s-1960s: When we openly accepted the role of the world’s police officer. Other times America has looked inward, spurning opportunities for expansion & virtually ignoring events that in other periods would have been a cause for war. Today, America seems to be looking outward once again, spurred, on the one side, by unprecedented terrorist attacks against the country, and on the other side by historic opportunities to make new friends with old foreign foes. B. Deep-seated beliefs, major economic developments, & widely shared opinions about what constitutes the dominant political problem of the time shape the nature of day-to-day political conflict. -What this means is that politics is not just about “who gets what”. -It is about how people, or elites claiming to speak for people, define the public interest. Men & women have been prepared to fight & die for this. -If you were alive in 1861, do you think you would have viewed slavery as a matter of gains & losses, costs & benefits, winners & losers? Some people did OR Do you think would would have been willing to fight to abolish or preserve it? Many did that The difference in these ways of thinking about such an issue are at least important as how institutions are organized or elections conducted.

29 Nature of Politics The answer to “Who Governs?” is often partial, contingent, or controversial Preferences vary, and so does politics Politics cannot be equated with laws on the books Sweeping claims are to be avoided Judgments about institutions & interests should be tempered by how they behave on different issues The policy process can be an excellent barometer of change in who governs A. The reason is found in the nature of the subject. Political scientists are interested in how preferences are formed, cannot be evaluated by the monetary costs (national defense, pollution) B. Preferences are vital to understand power. Who did what in government is not hard to find out but who wielded power- that is, who made a difference in the outcome & for what reason-is much harder to discover. (Secret CIA interrogations, CIA Torture). Power is a word that conjures up images of deals, bribes, power plays, and arm-twisting. Most power exists because of shared understanding, common friendships, communal or organizational loyalties, & different degrees of prestige. C. Knowing the laws is not enough. The enactment of a consumer protection law does not mean that consumers are powerful, anymore than the absence of such a law means that corporations are powerful. There would be aroused public opinion but a close analysis of what the entails & how it was passed & administered is necessary before much of anything can be said. D. Avoid sweeping claims like an “imperial” presidency, “obstructionist” Congress, “captured” regulatory agencies. E. Judgments about institutions & interests can be made only after one has seen how they behave on a variety of important issues or potential issues, such as: economic policy, regulation of business, social welfare, civil rights & liberties, & foreign 7 military affairs. The policies adopted or blocked, groups heeded or ignored, values embrace or rejected, constitute the raw material out of which one can fashion an answer to the central questions, Who governs? To what ends? Some have a tendency to assume that how we do things today is the only way they could possible be done, but there are other ways to operate government based on some measure of popular rule History, tradition, & belief weigh heavily on all we do. F. Political change is not always accompanying changes in public laws.

30 “Democracy” in Quotes Free Response Question
Read, interpret, and give your opinion of the ten “Democracy” in Quotes Choose one for which you have strong feelings and write a free response: A. Identify and explain your interpretation of the quote. B. Provide three examples of how American society portrays or disproves this ideal today.

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