INTRODUCING GOVERNMENT IN AMERICA
I. Introduction: Politics and Government Matter (pp. 3–8)
A. Many Americans are apathetic about politics and government. B. Political knowledge fosters civic virtues, educates citizens on policy, and promotes participation.
C. Voter turnout among the youth is lower than any other group. II. Government (pp. 8–9)
A. The institutions that make authoritative decisions for any given society are collectively known as government.
B. Two fundamental questions about governing serve as themes of this book. 1. How should we govern?
2. What should government do?
C. All national governments have certain functions in common: 1. Governments maintain national defense.
2. Governments provide public services called public goods.
3. Governments preserve order.
4. Governments socialize the young.
5. Governments collect taxes.
III. Politics (pp. 9–10)
A Politics determines whom we select as our governmental leaders and what policies they pursue.
B. The ways in which people get involved in politics make up their political participation.
C. Single-issue groups are so concerned with one issue that their members will cast their votes on the basis of that issue only.
IV. The Policymaking System (pp. 10–13)
A. People Shape Policy
1. The policymaking system is the process by which policy comes into being and evolves over time. (See Figure 1.4)
2. Political parties, elections, interest groups, and the media are key linkage institutions that transmit the preferences of Americans to the policymakers in government.
3. The policy agenda consists of the issues that attract the serious attention of public officials and other people actively involved in politics at a given time.
4. A political issue arises when people disagree about a problem or about a public policy choice made to fix a problem.
5. Policymakers work within the three policymaking institutions (the Congress, the presidency, and the courts as established by the U.S. Constitution).
B. Policies Impact People
1. Every decision that government makes—a law it passes, a budget it establishes, and even a decision not to act on an issue—is public policy. (See Table 1.1)
2. Policy impacts are the effects that a policy has on people and on society’s problems.
V. Democracy (pp. 13–23)
A. Defining Democracy
1. Democracy is a means of selecting policymakers and of organizing government so that policy reflects citizens’ preferences.
B. Traditional Democratic Theory
1. Equality in voting
2. Effective participation
3. Enlightened understanding
4. Citizen control of the agenda
6. Democracies must practice majority rule and preserve minority rights. 7. The relationship between the few leaders and the many followers is one of representation.
C. Three Contemporary Theories of American Democracy
1. Pluralist theory states that groups with shared interests influence public policy by pressing their concerns through organized efforts. 2. Elite and class theory contends that societies are divided along class lines, and that an upper-class elite pulls the strings of government. 3. Hyperpluralism contends that many groups are so strong that government is unable to act.
D. Challenges to Democracy
1. Increased Technical Expertise
2. Limited Participation in Government
3. Escalating Campaign Costs
4. Diverse Political Interests (policy gridlock)
E. American Political Culture and Democracy
1. Political culture consists of the overall set of values widely shared within a society.
F. A Culture War? (Is America polarized into rival political camps with different political cultures?)
G. Preview Questions about Democracy
VI. The Scope of Government in America (pp. 23–26)
A. How Active Is American Government?
B. Preview Questions about the Scope of Government
VII. Summary (p. 26)
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