Chapter 1: The Study of American Government
What is political power?
Two great questions about politics
Who governs: the people who govern affect us
To which ends: in which ways government affects our lives 3.
And then how the government makes decisions on a variety of issues B.
Definition: the ability of one person to cause another person to act in accordance with the first person's intentions 2.
Text's concern: power as it is used to affect who will hold government office and how government will behave 3.
Authority: the right to use power; not all who exercise political power have it 4.
Legitimacy: what makes a law or constitution a source of right 5.
Struggles over what makes authority legitimate
Necessity to be in some sense democratic in the United States today II.
What is democracy?
Aristotelian "rule of the many" (participatory democracy) 1.
Fifth-century B.C. Greek city-state
New England town meeting
Community control in self-governing neighborhood
Citizen participation in formulating programs
Acquisition of power by leaders via competitive elections (representative democracy) 1.
Sometimes disapprovingly referred to as the elitist theory 2.
Justifications of representative democracy
Direct democracy is impractical.
The people make unwise decisions based on fleeting emotions. III.
Direct versus representative democracy
Text uses the term democracy to refer to representative democracy. 1.
The Constitution does not contain the word democracy but the phrase "republican form of government." 2.
Representative democracy requires leadership competition if the system is to work. a.
Individuals and parties must be able to run for office.
Communication must be free.
Voters perceive that a meaningful choice exists.
Many elective national offices
Most money for elections comes from special interests
Virtues of direct democracy should be reclaimed through
Framers: "will of people" not synonymous with the "common interest" or the "public good" 1.
They strongly favored representative over direct democracy. 2.
Direct democracy minimized chances of abuse of power by tyrannical popular majority or self-serving office holders. IV.
How is power distributed in a democracy?
Leaders constrained to follow wishes of the people very closely 2.
Applies when issues are simple, clear, and feasible
Rule by identifiable group of persons who possess a disproportionate share of political power 2.
Four theories of Elite Influence
Marxism: government merely a reflection of underlying economic forces b.
C. Wright Mills: power elite composed of corporate leaders, generals, and politicians c.
Max Weber: bureaucracies based on expertise, specialized competence d.
Pluralist view: no single elite has a monopoly on power; hence must bargain and compromise C.
Cynical view that politics is self-seeking
Good policies may result from bad motives
Self-interest is an incomplete guide to actions (Alexis de Tocqueville on America) a.
September 11 and self interest
AFL-CIO and civil rights
Some act against long odds and without the certainty of benefit V.
Necessary to refer frequently to history because no single theory is adequate 1.
Government today influenced by yesterday
Government today still evolving and responds to changing beliefs B.
Politics about the public interest, not just who gets what VI.
Finding out who governs
We often give partial or contingent answers.
Preferences vary, and so does politics.
Politics cannot be equated with laws on the books.
Sweeping claims are to be avoided.
Judgments about institutions and interests should be tempered by how they behave on different issues. F.
The policy process can be an excellent barometer of change in who governs....
Please join StudyMode to read the full document