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GOVT 2e Instructor Manual Chapter 1 The Contours of American Democracy

In this manual, you’ll find learning objectives, a chapter overview, a chapter outline, web links, topics for class discussion, lecture launchers, in-class activities, and a list of important terms.

Learning Objectives 

Explain what is meant by the terms politics and government.

Identify the various types of government systems.

Summarize some of the basic principles of American democracy and the basic American political values.

Describe how the various topics discussed in this text relate to the “big picture” of American politics and government.

Overview Government is one of humanity’s oldest and most universal institutions. A number of different systems of government exist in the world today. In the United States, we have a democracy in which decisions about pressing issues ultimately are made by the people’s representatives in government. It is not surprising that in any democracy citizens are often at odds over many political and social issues. These differences are resolved through the American political process and our government institutions. Politics can be defined as the process of resolving social conflict—disagreements over how the society should use its scarce resources and who should receive various benefits. Political scientist Harold Lasswell perhaps said it best when he defined politics as the process of determining “who gets what, when, and how” in a society. Government can be defined as the individuals and institutions that make society’s rules and that also possess the power and authority to enforce those rules. Government serves at least three essential purposes: (a) it resolves conflicts; (b) it provides public services; and (c) it defends the nation and its culture against attacks by other nations. A government’s structure is influenced by a number of factors, such as history, customs, values, geography, resources, and human experiences. One of the most meaningful ways to classify systems of government is according to who governs. In an autocracy, the power and authority of the government are in the hands of a single person. Monarchies and dictatorships, including totalitarian dictatorships, are all forms of autocracy. In a constitutional monarchy, however, the monarch shares governmental power with elected lawmakers. Democracy is a system of government in which the people have ultimate political

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authority. Government exists only by the consent of the people and reflects the will of the majority. Direct democracy exists when the people participate directly in government decision making. In a representative democracy, the will of the majority is expressed through groups of individuals elected by the people to act as their representatives. A republic is essentially a representative democracy in which there is no king or queen; the people are sovereign. Forms of representative democracy include presidential democracy and parliamentary democracy. An aristocracy is a government in which a small privileged class rules. Other forms of government characterized by “rule by the few” include plutocracy (the wealthy exercise ruling power) and meritocracy (rulers have earned the right to govern because of their special skills or talents). Theocracy is a form of government in which there is no separation of church and state. The government rules according to religious precepts. In writing the U.S. Constitution, the framers incorporated two basic principles of government that had evolved in England: limited government and representative government. Our democracy resulted from a type of social contract among early Americans to create and abide by a set of governing rules. Social-contract theory was developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by such philosophers as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. According to this theory, individuals voluntarily agree with one another, in a “social contract,” to give up some of their freedoms to obtain the benefits of orderly government. Locke also argued that people are born with natural rights to life, liberty, and property. When the American colonists rebelled against British rule, such concepts as “natural rights” and a government based on a “social contract” became important theoretical tools in justifying the rebellion. American democracy is based on five fundamental principles: (a) equality in voting, (b) individual freedom, (c) equal protection of the law, (d) majority rule and minority rights, and (e) voluntary consent to be governed. From its beginnings as a nation, America has been defined less by the culture shared by its diverse population than by a patterned set of ideas, values, and ways of thinking about government and politics—its political culture. Fundamental values shared by most Americans include the rights to liberty, equality, and property. These values provide a basic framework for American political discourse and debate because they are shared by most Americans, yet individual Americans often interpret their meanings quite differently. Some Americans fear that rising numbers of immigrants will threaten traditional American political values and culture. Generally, assumptions as to what the government’s role should be in promoting basic values, such as liberty and equality, are important determinants of political ideology. When it comes to political ideology, Americans tend to fall into two broad camps: liberals and conservatives. Liberals, or progressives, often identify with the Democratic Party and conservatives tend to identify politically as Republicans. People whose views fall in the middle of the traditional political spectrum are generally called moderates. On both ends of the spectrum are those who espouse radical views. The radical left includes socialists and communists; the radical right includes reactionaries and fascists. Many Americans do not adhere firmly to a particular political ideology. They may not be interested in all political issues and may have a mixed set of opinions that do not fit neatly under a liberal or conservative label. Many Americans, for example, are conservative on economic issues and at the same time are liberal on social issues. The ideology of libertarianism favors just this combination. Many other voters are liberal on economic issues even as they favor conservative positions on social matters.

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Even the most divisive issues can be and are resolved through the political process. The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It sets forth basic governing rules by which Americans agreed to abide. Some of the most significant political controversies today have to do with how various provisions in this founding document should be applied to modern-day events and issues. Generally, those who acquire the power and authority to govern in our political system are the successful candidates in elections. The electoral process is influenced by interest groups, political parties, public opinion, voting behavior, campaign costs, and the media. Those persons who have been selected for public office become part of one of the institutions of government. They make laws and policies to decide “who gets what, when, and how” in our society. Interest groups, public opinion, and the media not only affect election outcomes but also influence the policymaking process. Lecture Outline I.

What are Politics and Government? A. Government is one of humanity’s oldest and most universal institutions. No society has existed without some form of government, and the need for authority and organization will never disappear. B. Most definitions of politics begin with the assumption that social conflict is inevitable. 1.

Resolving conflicts over how the society should use its scarce resources and who should receive various benefits is the essence of politics.

2.

Politics is the process of determining “who gets what, when, and how” in a society. (Harold Lasswell)

C. Government can best be defined as the individuals and institutions that make society’s rules and that also possess the power and authority to enforce those rules. D. Generally in any country, government serves at least three essential purposes. 1.

2.

3.

Resolving conflicts: a.

Governments have power—the ability to influence the behavior of others.

b.

Governments typically also have authority, which they can exercise only if their power is legitimate. Authority means power that is collectively recognized and accepted by society as legally and morally correct.

Providing public services a.

Governments undertake projects that individuals usually would or could not carry out on their own, such as building and maintaining roads and providing law enforcement.

b.

Some public services are provided equally to all citizens. Other services are provided only to citizens who are in need at a particular time, even though they are paid for by all citizens through taxes.

Defending the nation and its culture a.

Historically, matters of national security and defense have been given high priority by governments.

b.

In defending the nation against attacks by other nations, a government helps to preserve a nation’s culture, as well as its integrity as an independent unit.

II. Different Systems of Government A. Autocracy—the power and authority of government are in the hands of a single

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person. 1.

2.

Monarchy—government by a king, queen, emperor; power is usually acquired through inheritance. a.

Historically, many monarchies were absolute monarchies, in which the ruler held complete and unlimited power.

b.

Until the eighteenth century, the theory of divine right, which held that God gave those of royal birth the unlimited right to govern other men and women, was widely accepted in Europe.

c.

Most modern monarchies are constitutional monarchies, in which the monarch shares governmental power with elected lawmakers.

Dictatorship—a single leader rules, although not typically through inheritance a.

Dictators often gain supreme authority by using force.

b.

A dictatorship can be totalitarian—the leader seeks to control almost all aspects of social and economic life.

B. Democracy—rule by the people. Government exists only by the consent of the people and reflects the will of the majority. 1.

Direct democracy—people participate directly in government decision making.

2.

Representative democracy (a republic is a representative democracy with no monarch)—the will of the majority is expressed through groups of individuals elected by the people to act as their representatives. a.

In a presidential democracy, lawmaking and law-enforcing branches of government are separate but equal.

b.

In a parliamentary democracy, lawmaking and law-enforcing branches of government overlap.

C. Other forms of government 1.

Aristocracy—a government in which a small privileged class rules.

2.

Plutocracy—a government in which the wealthy exercise ruling power.

3.

Meritocracy—a government in which the rulers have earned the right to govern because of their special skills or talents.

4.

Theocracy—the government rules according to religious precepts. There is no separation of church and state.

III. American Democracy A. In writing the U.S. Constitution, the framers incorporated two basic principles of government that had evolved in England. 1.

Limited government—a government on which strict limits are placed, usually by a constitution; established in the Magna Carta (1215) and expanded in the Petition of Rights (1628) and the English Bill of Rights (1689).

2.

Representative government—government in which the people, by whatever means, elect individuals to make governmental decisions for all of the citizens.

B. Our democracy resulted from a type of social contract among early Americans to create and abide by a set of governing rules. According to this theory, individuals voluntarily agree with one another to give up some of their freedoms to obtain the benefits of orderly government. 1.

Social-contract theory was developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth

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centuries by philosophers such as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes in England and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in France. 2.

Locke’s assertion that people are born with natural rights to life, liberty, and property was particularly influential in America. Locke theorized that the purpose of government was to protect those rights; if it did not, it would lose its legitimacy and need not be obeyed.

C. Principles of American democracy—these principles frequently lie at the heart of America’s political conflicts and frame many of the issues in American politics. 1.

Equality in voting

2.

Individual freedom

3.

Equal protection of the law

4.

Majority rule and minority rights

5.

Voluntary consent to be governed

D. American Political Values 1.

From its beginnings as a nation, America has been defined less by the culture shared by its diverse population than by a set of ideas, or its political culture. Political culture—a patterned set of ideas, values, and ways of thinking about government and politics.

2.

The ideals and standards that constitute American political culture are embodied in the Declaration of Independence.

3.

Fundamental political values shared by most Americans include the rights to liberty, equality, and property. a.

Liberty—the freedom of individuals to believe, act, and express themselves as they choose so long as doing so does not infringe on the rights of other individuals in the society. The Constitution sets forth our civil liberties.

b.

Equality—a concept that holds, at minimum, that all people are entitled to equal protection under the law.

c.

Property—for Americans, property and the pursuit of happiness are closely related. Americans place a great value on land ownership, on material possessions, and on their businesses. Private ownership of wealth-producing property is at the heart of our capitalist economic system. Capitalism is also based on free markets.

E. Political Values in a Multicultural Society

F.

1.

Until recently, most Americans viewed the United States as the world’s melting pot. They accepted that American society included numerous ethnic and cultural groups, but they expected that the members of these groups would assimilate the language and customs of earlier Americans. One of the outgrowths of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, however, was an emphasis on multiculturalism, the belief that the many cultures that make up American society should remain distinct and be protected—and even encouraged—by our laws.

2.

For the nation as a whole, non-Hispanic whites will be in the minority by 2050. Some Americans fear that rising numbers of immigrants will threaten traditional American political values and culture.

American Political Ideology 1.

Ideology—a system of political ideas that are rooted in religious or philosophical beliefs concerning human nature, society, and government. Generally,

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assumptions as to what the government’s role should be in promoting basic values are important determinants of political ideology. Americans tend to fall into two broad political camps: liberals and conservatives. Most Americans, however, are not ideologues. 2.

3.

Liberalism a.

Modern liberalism traces it roots to the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Thereafter, the word liberalism became associated with the concept of “big government,” that is, with government intervention to aid economically disadvantaged groups and to promote equality.

b.

Today’s liberals continue to believe that the government has a responsibility to undertake social-welfare programs to assist the poor and disadvantaged. Today’s liberals also believe that the national government should take steps to ensure that our civil rights and liberties are protected and that the government must look out for the interests of the individual against the majority.

c.

Liberals typically believe in the separation of church and state, and generally think that the government should not involve itself in the moral or religious life of the nation.

d.

Most politicians who might have called themselves liberals in the past have abandoned the term, because it has become unpopular, and have labeled their philosophy progressivism instead.

e.

In terms of party affiliation and voting, liberals, or progressives, identify with the Democratic Party.

Conservatism a.

Modern conservatism in this country can also trace its roots to the Roosevelt administration, when conservatives came to oppose the New Deal and big government. By the time of Ronald Reagan, conservatives placed a high value on the principles of community, law and order, states’ rights, family values, and individual initiative.

b.

Today’s conservatives tend to fall into two basic categories: economic conservatives and social conservatives.

c.

Conservatives tend to identify politically as Republicans.

G. The Traditional Political Spectrum 1.

Liberalism and conservatism have been regarded as falling within a political spectrum that ranges from the far left to the far right.

2.

People whose views fall in the middle of the traditional political spectrum are generally called moderates. Many moderates do not belong to either major political party and often describe themselves as independent.

3.

The Extreme Left and Right a.

The radical left consists of those who would like significant changes in the political order, usually to promote egalitarianism. Socialists generally support democracy and work within established political systems to realize their ideals. Communists, in contrast, have sought to reach their goals through revolutionary violence and totalitarian dictatorships.

b.

The radical right includes reactionaries, those who wish to turn the clock back to some previous era. Reactionaries strongly oppose liberal and progressive politics and resist political and social change. Like those on the

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radical left, members of the radical right may even advocate the use of violence to achieve their goals. This is especially true of fascist movements. H. Ideology and Today’s Electorate a.

Those who hold strongly to political ideologies that are well thought out and internally consistent are called ideologues.

b.

Many Americans do not adhere firmly to a particular political ideology. They may not be interested in all political issues and may have a mixed set of opinions that do not neatly fit under a liberal or conservative label.

c.

Many Americans, for example, are conservative on economic issues, and at the same time are liberal on social issues. Indeed, the ideology of libertarianism favors this combination. Libertarians oppose government action to regulate the economy, just as they oppose government involvement in issues of private morality.

d.

Many other voters are liberal on economic issues even as they favor conservative positions on social matters.

IV. American Democracy at Work A. Even the most divisive issues can be and are resolved through the political process. B. The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It sets forth basic rules by which Americans, when they ratified the Constitution, agreed to abide. C. Those who acquire the power and authority to govern are generally the successful candidates in elections. The electoral process is influenced by interest groups, political parties, public opinion and voting behavior, campaign costs, and the media. D. Once a winning candidate assumes a political office, that candidate becomes a part of one of the institutions of government. Those who govern the nation make laws and policies to decide “who gets what, when, and how” in our society. When formulating and implementing policies, policymakers cannot ignore the wishes of interest groups. Public opinion and the media also influence which issues will be included on the policymaking agenda. Web Links 

Go to www.usa.gov, the U.S. government’s “official” Web site, for extensive information on the national government and the services it provides for citizens.

Yale University Library has an excellent collection of sources relating to American politics and government. Go to www.library-yale.edu/socsci.

To access the site of This Nation, a nonpartisan site dealing with current political issues, go to www.thisnation.com.

Links to online newspapers are available at www.newspapers.com.

CNN’s Politics Web site offers news, news analysis, polling data, and news articles dating back to 1996. Go to www.cnn.com/POLITICS.

The Center for Democracy and Technology provides information about how new computer and communications technologies are affecting constitutional rights and liberties. Go to www.cdt.org.

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The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press offers survey data online on a number of topics relating to American politics. Go to people-press.org.

Topics for Class Discussion 

Americans look to government to provide services of all kinds, such as law enforcement, building schools, and maintaining roads and bridges. Defining "public services," however, can be tricky. Is providing affordable health care a public service? How about granting tax abatements to attract new businesses and industries to a community, or buying toxic assets held by banks? Is it possible to follow Lincoln’s advice that the “legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot, so well do, for themselves—in their separate, individual capacities. In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere”?

Has America gone too far in exporting liberty around the globe? Is it telling that in his second Inaugural Address, President George W. Bush used the word liberty fifteen times, and said that the policy of the United States is “to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world”? Why do you think President Obama, on the other hand, mentioned liberty only twice in his 2009 Inaugural Address, neither time using the word in the context of foreign policy?

Do your students see the world differently than their parents do because of their experiences with multiculturalism? Are they more tolerant of those who come from different cultures? Or are they simply tired of hearing about embracing diversity? Is multiculturalism facing a backlash?

Lecture Launchers 

In the summer of 2009, it was announced that Wal-Mart had agreed to pay nearly $35 million in a settlement of a class action lawsuit in the state of Washington. The case covered almost 80,000 employees who sued the company for failure to allow rest breaks and meal breaks and for forcing employees to work off the clock. As part of the settlement, however, Wal-Mart stipulated that it had done nothing wrong. The Washington case was just one of a number of employee lawsuits that the company has settled, with the total cost nearing $640 million by some estimates. Why would the company pay so much to settle a lawsuit if there had been no wrongdoing? What would you think if you were a Wal-Mart shareholder? How difficult is it to reconcile the political values of liberty, equality, and property?

Fundamental political values shared by most Americans include the rights to liberty, equality, and property. Take a few moments to have your students write definitions of each of these rights. How do their definitions vary? How are these concepts reflected in government programs or policies?

In-class Activities 

Have your students identify a number of current, controversial social and economic issues and ask them to indicate the positions they take on these matters. Where do the members of the class fall on the two-dimensional political classification? Is there a relationship between the students’ ideologies and their partisan leanings? Do they have a difficult time determining which American political party best represents their views?

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Important Terms authority autocracy bicameral legislature capitalism conservatism democracy dictatorship direct democracy divine right theory equality government ideologue ideology institution liberalism liberty limited government moderate monarchy natural rights parliament political culture politics power progressivism public services radical left radical right representative democracy republic social conflict social contract

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Solution manual govt california edition 2nd edition sidlow  

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