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Foundations of American Government

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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 Evolutionary Theory Force Theory
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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