Essentials of American Government

Topics: United States Constitution, United States Bill of Rights, Supreme Court of the United States Pages: 13 (3540 words) Published: November 10, 2010
Essentials of American Government: roots and reform

Chapter One: The Political Landscape
Roots of American Government: What Are They and Why Are They Important? A Government is the formal vehicle through which policies are made and affairs of state are conducted. Governments are often a result of trial and error, experiment, compromise, and sometimes bloodshed. A Citizen is a member of the political community to whom certain rights and obligations are attached. Politics is the study of who gets what, when and how- or how policy decisions are made. -Functions of Government (Pg. 5)

*Establishing Justice
*Insuring Domestic Tranquility
*Promoting the General Welfare
*Securing the Blessings of Liberty
-Types of Government (Pg. 7)
Early theorists such as Plato and Aristotle tried to categorize governments by who participates, who governs, and how much authority those who govern enjoy. A Monarchy is a form of government in which power is vested in hereditary kings and queens who govern in the interests of all (EXPLICITLY REJECTED BY THE FRAMERS). The Framers also rejected Aristocracy, which is defined as government by the few in the service of many. The least appealing of Aristotle’s classifications of government is Totalitarianism, which is a form of government in which power resides in a leader who rules according to self interest and without regard for individual rights and liberties. Another Unappealing for of government, an Oligarchy is a form of government in which the right to participate is conditioned on the possession of wealth, social status, military position, or achievement. Aristotle called rule of the many for the benefit of all citizens a “polity” and referred to the rule of many to benefit themselves, Democracy. Democracy is a system of government that gives power to the people whether directly or through elected representative. Aristotle strongly believed that the collective judgment of the many was preferred to that of a few. Aristotle’s Classifications of Government:

The Philosophical Origins of American Government
-The Reformation and the Enlightenment: Questioning the Divine Right of Kings (Pg.8)
The Mayflower Compact was a document written by the Pilgrims while at sea enumerating the scope of their government and its expectations of citizens. The Mayflower Compact took the form of a Social Contract, or agreement between the people and their government signifying their consent to be governed. -Hobbes, Locke, and the Social Contract Theory of Government (Pg. 9)

Thomas Hobbes and John Locke built on conventional notions about the role of government and the relationship of the government to the people in proposing a social contract theory of government. The social contract theory is the belief that people are free and equal by natural right, and that this in turn requires that al people give their consent to be governed; espoused by John Locke and was influential in the Declaration of Independence. According to Locke, people form governments largely to preserve life, liberty, property, and to ensure justice. -Devising a National Government in the American Colonies (Pg. 10)

Direct Democracy is a system of government in which members of the polity meet to discuss all policy decisions and then agree to abide by majority rule.
Indirect Democracy is a system of government that gives citizens the opportunity to vote for representatives who will work on their behalf.
Republic is a government rooted in the consent of the governed; a representative or indirect democracy.

American Political Culture and the Basic Tenets of American Democracy
Political Culture is commonly shared attitudes, beliefs, and core values about how government should operate. American political culture emphasizes the values of personal liberty, equality, popular consent and majority rule, popular sovereignty, civil society, individualism, and religious faith. -Personal Liberty (Pg. 10)

Personal Liberty is a...
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