I. World events and domestic crises create political changes that affect the way all of us live. II. Change versus Stability
a. People and governments need stability as well as change. Agreement on the rules of the road, on the structure of government, and especially on the processes by which change is made gives people the confidence they need to plan for their own futures. If governments change capriciously or suddenly, no individual or family can be sure that their plans are safe. b. Due to our electoral system, Americans have the opportunity to maintain or to change the balance of power in their national government every two years or so c. The willingness of Americans to respond to new challenges and, when necessary, to demand changes in the way the government works is at the core of our democratic nation. Change- even revolutionary change- is a tribute to the success of a political system. d. Institution- a long-standing, identifiable structure or association that performs certain functions for society. III. What is Politics?
a. Why do nations and people struggle so hard to establish a form of government and continue to expend so much effort in politics to keep that government functioning? Politics and forms of government are probably as old as human society. There are many definitions of politics, but all try to explain how human beings regulate conflict within their society. As soon as humans began to live in groups, particularly groups that were larger than their immediate families, they found that they needed to establish about behavior, property, the privileges of individuals and groups, and how people would survive together. b. Politics can best be understood as the process of resolving conflicts and deciding, as Harold Laswell put it, “who gets what, when, and how,” in society. c. The Evolution of Politics
1. In the early versions of human society, the tribe or village, politics was relatively informal. Tribal elders of hereditary chiefs were probably vested with the power to decide who married whom, who was able to build a hut on the best piece of land, and which young people succeeded them into the positions of leadership. 2. Other societies were very “democratic” from the very beginning, giving their members some role in the choice of leadership and rules. Early human societies rarely had the concept of property, so few rules were needed to decide who owned which piece of property or who inherited that piece. The concepts of property and inheritance are much more modern. As society became more complex and humans became settled farmers rather than hunters and gatherers, resolving problems associated with property, inheritance, sales and exchanges, kinship, and rules of behavior became more important. Politics developed into the process by which some of these questions were answered. d. Resolution of Conflicts
1. Inevitably, conflicts arise in society, because members of a group are distinct individuals with unique needs, values, and perspectives. Political processes may be required to help resolve at least three kinds of conflict that may arise in a society: a. People may differ over their beliefs, either religious or personal, or over basic issues of right and wrong. This kind of debate has arisen in recent years over the desirability and validity of state-sanctioned same-sex marriages. The issue of whether individuals should have the right to commit physician-assisted suicide has also aroused this type of debate. b. People within a society may differ greatly in their perception of what the society’s goals should be. For example, Americans disagree about whether the national government has the right to prohibit the medical use of marijuana over a state’s citizens have voted on its legality....