American Government Notes (Chapters 1, 2, and 3)
6,000,000,000 years average of how long there has been on earth. 6,000 years (keeping track of ourselves, writing, etc.)
Broad-based acceptance of democratic rule is a relatively new concept.
The Origins of Society
According to Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) people voluntarily chose to leave a “state of nature” to form societies of individuals. Despite the presence of absolute liberty, Hobbes felt the state of nature was “Solitary, poor, hasty, brutish and short.” Therefore, people surrender a portion of their liberty in order to secure protection from others.
The Social Contract- Hobbes describes society and government as the product of an unwritten “Social Contract” where individuals within that society agree to relinquish their personal liberty and obey the laws of society in exchange for the protection of their rights. Despite the fact that Hobbes believed that government ought to be absolute, this was the first usage of the phrase “Consent of the governed” in the description of the origin and legitimacy of government.
Freedom vs. Equality
A more contemporary conflict occurs in most societies that adhere to democratic principles between freedoms and equality-i.e. what quantity of government intervention on the freedom of an individual is proper in order to promote or protect the equality of another member of society.
Recurring Issues- Throughout 220 years of American political history, certain “marco” issues appear consistently. 1. Federalism
2. Big government vs. small government
3. Pluralism vs. Elitism
4. Status Quo vs. Redistribution
Generally, governments fall into two broad classifications, those who govern from the “top down” (totalitarian) and those that govern from “bottom up” (democratic).
Order vs. Freedom
Hobbes Leviathan (1651) understood the classic conflict that any society and its government must face social order vs. individual freedom.
1. Government- The organization or agency that creates public policy/law for society and authorized by society to use force to control human behavior. 2. Law-An enforceable set of rules created by a government to regulate the conduct of the governed. (i.e. the people) 3. Political process- By which the people affect their government and public policy/law. (Who gets what, where, when, and how) 4. Political System- Set interrelated institutions and activities that link the people with their government. (Political parties, interest groups, and the media) 5. Political Science- The study of government and political systems. (Who governs, for what ends, and by what means) 6. Nationalism- Belief that the shared characteristics of a people provide a sufficient basis for a single, national government that encompasses all of them. 7. Republicanism- Belief that power resides in people and exercised by representatives they elect to make government decisions. 8. Limited Government- Belief that government has only the authority that is specifically granted to it by the people. 9. Separation of Powers- Belief that the basic functions of government ought to be divided among diverse populations to prevent a concentration of government power in a single entity. 10. Federalism- Governmental system in which two or more levels of government exercise concurrent authority and power of the same people and geographic territory. 11. Unitary System- Governmental system where all authority rests with a single, national government.
Purpose of Government
Generally, governments “do” for the governed what the governed cannot do for themselves. 1. Keep internal order
2. Protect from external threats
3. Provide public services
4. Protect public goods
5. Promote equality
Five Cornerstones of Democracy- 20th Century political scientist Robert Dahl suggests that there are five “cornerstones of democracy”. 1. Inclusion of all citizens...
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