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Theories of Democratic Government

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Presentation on theme: "Theories of Democratic Government"— Presentation transcript:

1 Theories of Democratic Government

2 Definition of Democracy
System of selecting policymakers and of organizing government so that policy represents and responds to the public’s preferences

3 Traditional Democratic Theory
Key principles that specify how governmental decisions are made in a democracy Ideal democratic process should satisfy 5 criteria: Equality in voting: does not have to be universal, but must be representative Effective participation: citizens have adequate & equal opportunities to express preferences Enlightened understanding: marketplace of ideas; freedom of speech & press essential Citizen control of agenda: collective right to control the government’s policy agenda Issues that attract attention Problematic if one group has influence beyond its numbers Inclusion: government extends rights to all citizens

4 Traditional Democratic Theory: Fundamental Principles
Majority Rule Desires of the majority represented in choosing policy Minority Rights Majority should not do anything it wants Cannot infringe on rights of minority Representation Use people to represent others in governmental decision-making Impossible to have direct political involvement by all in large society

5 Two Types of Democracy Direct Democracy Representative Democracy
All or most citizens participate directly, such as in a small town meeting Impractical in large populations Even in Aristotelian Greece, the “many” referred only to free adult male property owners Many states allow direct democracy in which voters decide on referendum issues Decisions depend on votes of the people themselves Leaders that are elected by the people make decisions by winning a competitive struggle for the popular vote Utilizes characteristics of both presidential and parliamentary systems of government Leaders must communicate without many restrictions Voters need to believe a meaningful choice exists in competition Leaders must make compromises to connect a majority of voters, which can balance out radical candidates with well-rounded contenders

6 American Democracy Framers believed the “will of the people” was not synonymous with the “public good” or “common interest” Different factions would make it difficult to govern Factions would need to come together and form coalitions Larger republics provide more moderate views So, gov’t should be father away since the people don’t always have the public good in mind Favored a “mirror, not mediate” approach to popular opinion Saw representative democracy as a way of minimizing abuse of power by a misguided majority or self-serving officeholder Had to determine which offices were elected or appointed

7 Contemporary Theories
The real question: Who really governs? 3 Contemporary Theories: Pluralist Elite & Class Hyperpluralism

8 Pluralist Theory Policies are passed due to which interest is more representative of the views of Americans Large spectrum of input from competing interests Groups with shared interests influence public policy by pushing for decisions that respond to their concerns Optimistic that the “public interest” will prevail through bargaining & compromise “All active and legitimate groups in the population can make themselves heard at some crucial stage in the process” –Robert Dahl No one group controls a majority of the political process Enough political resources are available that big business cannot lock out every issue Requires Americans to be “joiners” in the political process Have we joined? Technology isolates people More involved in self-defined ways instead of in groups

9 Power Elite Theory Government is dominated by a few top leaders, most of whom are outside of government Members of the economic elite & policy-planning networks Power is not in the hands of elected representatives Stands in opposition of pluralism Society is divided among class lines Upper class elite hold significant power Wealth is basis of power The wealthy will rule Also: high political leaders, major corporate owners & executives, & high ranking military officers Wealthy can afford to finance election campaigns & control key institutions like corporations “The people who own the country ought to govern it” – John Jay

10 Bureaucratic View Government officials & workers are the ones who exercise power by helping write policies into existence (not the elected representatives) Appointed officials are mostly invisible to the average person Implement & make policies to suit their interests and ideas Theory created by Max Weber Institutions allow bureaucrats to control them, as to maintain & control the government more easily Desirable to some extent, as expertise & specialization allow bureaucrats to make better decisions

11 Hyperpluralism Groups are so strong that the government is weakened
Results from extreme form of Pluralism Groups treat government as their servant Push for own policies at whatever level and branch of gov’t may result in their favor Create battlegrounds at national, state, and local levels in executive, legislative, and judicial branches Government responds to all groups, creating policies that are confusing, contradictory, and muddled Public interest isn’t well served

12 Journal Entry Which theory do you think has the most merit and why: Pluralist, Elite, or Hyperpluralism?

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