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Foundations of American Government. Key Terms ●State ●Sovereignty ●Nation ●Nation-state ●consensus ●government ●social contract ●philosopher ●affect ●theory.

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Presentation on theme: "Foundations of American Government. Key Terms ●State ●Sovereignty ●Nation ●Nation-state ●consensus ●government ●social contract ●philosopher ●affect ●theory."— Presentation transcript:

1 Foundations of American Government

2 Key Terms ●State ●Sovereignty ●Nation ●Nation-state ●consensus ●government ●social contract ●philosopher ●affect ●theory

3 What is the State? ●The first serious students of politics and government were the Greeks. ●In the Western World, scholars look to the Greek philosopher Aristotle who wrote famously, “man is a political animal.” ●For Greeks, state meant city-state which was made up of a town and its surrounding area. ●In the modern world the term state means a political community with a precise territory. ●A state has sovereignty – it makes and enforces its own laws without approval from another authority ●Many of the Greek ideas survived through the Romans, however the Romans were a republic, not a democracy. How do the two differ?

4 What is the State? ●Currently, 193 sovereign states are recognized by the UN, including the United States. ●In an American context, we recognize 50 states in our federal system. ●The term nation is used for state, but actually means a sizable group of people who believe themselves united by common bonds of race, language, custom or religion. ●Not every modern state shares this make up: Not everyone in France is of French descent, however both the nation and the state coincide. This is known as a nation- state. ●Some national groups have no state but desire one: ○ Ex: Some African states are made up of different nations or tribal groups. ●In most cases the terms state, nation and country are used interchangeably.

5 Essential Features of a State What are the four essential features of a modern state?

6 Essential Features of the State There are four essential features that make the modern state: population, territory, sovereignty and government.

7 Essential Features of the State: Population ●The nature of a state's population affects its stability. ●In states where there is a consensus about basic beliefs and values, the government is most stable. ●The United States government is stable because most Americans believe in a democratic system. ●Another way population affects a state is through distribution. ●Recent population shifts have moved political power from the Northeast to the Southwest. ●States with greater population gain representatives in Congress and vice versa.

8 Essential Features of the State: Territory ●Every state has establish boundaries. ●What are the boundaries of the United States? ○Canada ○Mexico ○Pacific Ocean ○Atlantic Ocean ●Political boundaries are often the source of conflict among states and may change due to war, negotiations or purchase.

9 Essential Features of the State: Sovereignty ●The key characteristic of a state is sovereignty. ●Sovereignty means the state has supreme and absolute authority within its boundaries. ●In theory - no state has the right to interfere with the affairs of another state. ●In theory - every state is equal with respect to rights and duties. ●In practice - states with great economic strength and military capabilities have more power than other states.

10 Features of the State: Government Government is the institution through which a state maintains social order, provides public services and enforces decisions that are binding on all its residents.

11 Origins of the State ●How did the state come to be? ●No one knows for sure but scholars have created theories to explain the origins of the state. ●Include: ○ Evolutionary Theory ○ Force Theory ○ Divine Right Theory ○ Social Contract Theory

12 Origins of the State: Evolutionary Theory ●Evolutionary Theory - believes the state evolved from the family. ●The head of the primitive family supposedly served as the government authority ●An extended family may include hundreds of people and need a more organized government. ●Example - Abraham’s descendants in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.

13 Origins of the State: Force Theory ●In early civilizations, people cooperated to survive by building walled cities. ●Some point to this fact to prove the state was born out of force. ●They believe the state would not exist without a force to keep out. ●A state then emerged when an area was brought under the authority of a person or group.

14 Origins of the State: Divine Right Theory ●Divine Right - the idea that certain people are chosen by a god or gods to rule ●Specifically refers to European monarchs of the 1600s and 1700s who claimed right to rule from God alone. ●To oppose the monarch was to oppose God, so not only treason but sinful as well.

15 Origins of the State: Social Contract Theory ●In the 1600s, Europeans began to challenge the divine right theory. ●Among the challengers were Englishmen John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. ●They believed in any society that a “state of nature” existed where there was no government. ●To create a government a social contract was made between ruler and ruled. ●Both had different views on contract terms.

16 Origins of the State: Social Contract Theory ● Hobbes thought in the “state of nature” life would be “nasty, brutish and short”. ● What does he mean by this? ● In Hobbes social contract, people surrendered their freedom in return for order and security. ● Hobbes believed as long as the government kept order, people could not break their contract.

17 Origins of the State: Social Contract Theory ●Locke lived during the removal of James II (divine right believer) and replacement with William and Mary of Orange. ●Locke defended the overthrow by this reasoning: ●In the “state of nature” men and women had certain natural rights - life, liberty and property. ●Locke’s contract was made between people and government promising to preserve those natural rights, if they did not the people could rebel. ●A century later, American colonists used Locke's theory to revolt against King George III.

18 Purposes of Government ●Modern government has several functions- ○maintain social order ○provide public services ○provide security and defense ○provide for the economy ●To fulfill these functions governments make laws and then carry them out ●Authority is derived from two sources: ○legitimacy and force ●Legitimacy - willingness of citizens to obey the government ○Obtained in democratic countries through the power to vote ●Force - the police, judiciary, and military ○Example - pay your taxes or be imprisoned.

19 Purpose: Maintain Social Order ●According to social contract theory, people need government because humans cannot live in peace. ●Government provides ways to resolve conflicts thus maintaining social order. ●Governments can also make and enforce laws, requiring people to do things they may not do voluntarily. ○Examples? ●Government provides law and order, making civilized life possible. ●An effective government allows citizens to plan for the future, get an education, raise a family and live orderly lives.

20 Purpose: Provide Public Service ●Providing essential services is an important purpose of government making community life possible and promoting general welfare. ●Examples of government provided public services? ●Other services promote public health and safety. ●Examples?

21 Purpose: Provide Security ●Protecting national security is a major concern of each sovereign state ●In addition to protecting the nation from attack, government also handles day-to-day relations with other nations ●The Constitution gives the federal government a monopoly over the relations with foreign nations. ●Government provides economic security by signing trade agreements ●Some state governments have informal relations with other nations to increase trade or cultural exchanges but the national government can place limits on these exchanges.

22 Purpose: Economic Decisions ●No country provides its citizens with everything they need or desire. ●Poverty and scarce resources has been a basic cause for conflict in most countries ●The greater the income gap, the greater chance for conflict ●Poverty has even contributed to full blown revolutions ●With that in mind, leaders often try and reduce economic conflict through intervention ●Governments may also intervene in other nations econimc affairs to promote their own national security ○After WWII, the US funded the Marshall Plan due to fears of Communist revolutions ●Government makes monetary policy, including but not limited to: ○farm subsidies ○tax incentives ○inflation control ○regulations


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