Political Philosophy and United States

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1.1 Trace the origins of American government

What is a democracy?

How does a democracy differ from other forms of government in both practical and theoretical terms?

What requirements must be met for a government to be called a democracy?

Which of the democratic ideals do you foresee as not being achieved in Iraq, and why? Will Iraq still be considered a democracy without this ideal? From the other forms of government mentioned in this chapter, argue for a better form of government for Iraq than a democracy.

1.2 Show how European political thought provided the theoretical foundations of American government

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Can socialism coexist with democracy? Is extensive economic freedom essential to democracy? Can the unequal economic outcomes of capitalism be considered “undemocratic”?

In his 1651 Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes observed that without government, life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Justify his argument. With this justification, justify the existence of government as it presently operates in the United States today.

What demographic and socioeconomic factors do you think are related to democracy? Wealth? Education? A homogeneous population? Can you find countries that don’t meet your expectations?

Does democracy require equality of income and wealth? Does majority rule undermine freedom and threaten individual rights? What was James Madison's view, and what is your reaction?

1.3 Describe American political culture, and identify the basic tenets of American democracy

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Discuss the theories of elitism and pluralism as explanations of how American government works.

Harold Lasswell’s book, Politics: Who Gets What, When, and How, can be seen as associated with the often-made statement “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” How do the two different statements relate to each other, as well as to present-day political realities?

Americans often possess a healthy cynicism of government, whether large or small. Identify the reasons for such beliefs and how government should attempt to address these.

Can a few elite decision makers control all important decisions made in the United States today?

Some leaders are made by climbing the “ladder of success” rather than being born into power classes. How does this approach compare to “elitism” versus the approach defined as “pluralism”?

How does democracy in America compare to democracy in other parts of the world? What are the most important sources of stability in American government?

What are the most important forces for change in American government?

Suppose the United States passed a constitutional amendment requiring all eligible citizens to vote, what would be the advantages and disadvantages of this measure?

Do you agree with the statement, “Equality, individualism, and openness are the crucial values of American politics in the twenty-first century”?

Although there is widespread support for the concepts of freedom and liberty in America, there have been many intrusions into basic rights in American history. Can you explain why we find such discrepancies in an area where we also find almost complete public support for the general principle?

1.4 Explain the functions of American government

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What are some of the goals of terrorist acts? How can terrorism affect the paradox of democracy? How can/should democracies respond? Must security come at the price of liberties? How can democracies, particularly the United States, deal with new restrictions imposed as a result of terrorist acts/threats?

Identify the roles of government and the concept of “public goods.” Are there any other institutions, other than government, which might be charged with performing the roles of government? Is such a consideration realistic?

What can individual American citizens do to influence the actions and policies of their government?

Name some ways in which...
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