; Harold Lasswell defines politics as “Who gets what, when and how.”
o Politics is the struggle over power or influence within organizations or informal groups
that can grant benefits or privileges.
o Politics occur in many different groups.
; What is government?
o An institution, an ongoing organization with a life separate from the lives of the people in
o An institution within which decision are made that resolve conflicts or allocate benefits
o The preeminent institution within society.
; Why is government necessary?
; What happens if government does not exist?
; Government is needed for:
o Security or order.
o Limitation on the power of government.
; Liberty: the greatest freedom of individuals that is consistent with the freedom of other
individuals in the society. Your freedom ends where my nose begins.
AUTHORITY AND LEGITIMACY
; Authority is the right and power to enforce decisions.
o Authority is also military right and power but also the right and power conferred by
o How is power gained? Power is always conferred by others, never taken.
; Legitimacy is when most people accept the government’s right to establish rules and laws.
o What happens when “everyone” disagrees with a law?
o Is the U.S. imposed government in Iraq legitimate? Was Sadam Hussein’s government in
TYPES OF GOVERNMENT
o A small group of leaders or a single individual makes all the political decisions for a
o Every aspect of political, social and economic life is controlled by the government.
o The power of the ruler is total or absolute.
o Only the government itself is fully controlled by the ruler.
o Social and economic institutions exist that are not under the government’s control.
o “Rule by the best.”
o In practice, rule is by wealthy members of ancient families.
o The term derived from the Greek phrase meaning “rule by god” or “rule by the deity.”
o Church and state are not divided; rule is by religious leaders governed by religious
o Rule by the people.
o The most demanded form of government in today’s world.
; Direct Democracy
o All laws are debated and voted on by the voting population.
o The legislature is composed of all voting citizens. Legislature: A governmental body
primarily responsible for making laws.
; Direct democracy has been practiced in U.S. and in Switzerland. In the U.S., it has
been constrained to New England town meetings where important decisions - taxes,
hiring, laws – are made by a majority vote.
o Initiative and Referendum and Recall are also examples of direct democracy. o The Internet has made access to information and elected officials much easier. o Dangers of direct democracy
; The original framers of the Constitution were opposed to direct democracy. They
considered it a dangerous and unstable form of government.
; Government based on the consent of the people was the main aspiration of the
; The masses were considered too uneducated to govern themselves, too prone to the
influence of demagogues (political leaders who manipulate popular prejudices) and
too likely to subordinate minority rights to the tyranny of the majority.
; The fear was that direct democracy would deteriorate into mob rule that abused
; The constitutional framers chose to create a republic
o A republic is a form of government in which sovereignty rests with the people as opposed
to a king or monarch.
o A republic is based on popular sovereignty.
o To people in the 1700s, a republic also meant a government based on common beliefs
and virtues that would be fostered within small communities.
o They desired their rulers to be amateurs taking turns at ruling.
o The U.S. Constitution created a form of government we now call a democratic republic.
People hold the ultimate power through the election process, but policy decisions are
made by elected officials.
; The election of the president and senators was originally by political elites, not by the
public in general.
; This was a new government unique in the power granted to the ordinary citizen. The
idea spread throughout the world.
; Our system of government is all called a representative democracy. The difference
between a democratic republic and a representative democracy is that the former
allows a king or queen as in Britain though Britain does not like the term and uses
PRINCIPLES OF DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT
; In the 1790s, only free white males were allowed to vote. In some states, in order to vote,
one also had to own property.
; African Americans were given the right to vote in 1870 (fully in 1960s) and women were
given the right to vote in 1920.
; Today, universal suffrage (the right of all adults to vote for their representatives) is the rule.
; Basic principles of democratic government
o Majority will with guarantees of minority rights.
o Free, competitive elections.
o Limited government.
WHAT KIND OF DEMOCRACY DO WE HAVE?
A political theory holding that in a democracy, the government ought to do what the o
majority of the people want.
o This form of government often results in a low level of voter turnout.
Disinterest and the lack of information by voters make this form difficult and it is o
probably not how our country works.
; Elite Theory
o A perspective holding that society is ruled by a small number of people who exercise
power to further their self-interest.
o Few believe in the theory today, but it was accepted by many in the past.
; Alexander Hamilton, “All communities divide themselves into the few and the many.
The first are the rich and the wellborn, the other the mass of the people…The people
are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to
the first class a distinct, permanent share of the government. They will check the
unsteadiness of the second and as they cannot receive any advantage by a change,
they therefore will ever maintain good government.”
; Some versions of elite theory posit a small, cohesive elite class and others suggest
that voters choose among competing elites with some new members recruited from
the brightest children of the masses.
DEMOCRACY FOR GROUPS
o A theory that views politics as a conflict among interest groups.
o Political decision making is characterized by bargaining and compromise.
o Different groups have differing power in different situations.
; Due to multiplicity of interests of individuals in different groups, conflict among
groups need not divide the nation into hostile camps.
; Pluralism does not function as democracy is intended to function. The poor rarely are
represented by interest groups. The rich are over represented.
; A group decision does not always reflect the best interests of the nation. Interests of
the nation as a whole may not be considered.
; It is likely that none of the theories explain fully how our government works.
; Writers of the Constitution believed that the nation would be sustained by its political culture.
o A political culture is a patterned set of ideas, values and ways of thinking about
government and politics.
Political culture is created through political socialization: the process by which beliefs o
and values are transmitted to new immigrants and to our children.
; Agents transmitting political culture:
o Public education system
; Dominant culture
o The values, customs and language established by the group or groups that traditionally
have controlled politics and government in a society.
In U.S. the roots of the dominant culture are Western European civilization. o
o These roots include a bias toward individualism, private property and Judeo-Christian
o Other cultures have other values that honor community or family over individualism and
may place less emphasis on materialism.
; Liberty versus order
o Civil liberties include religious freedom (to practice religion or be free of state imposed
religion) and freedom of speech.
o A significant number of Americans believe that certain kinds of liberty threaten the
traditional social order.
o The Supreme Court has held that the right to privacy can be derived from other rights
explicitly stated in the Bill of Rights.
o This decision has been used to determine that abortion and private homosexual behavior
by consenting adults can not be banned.
o Cultural conservatives believe that such rights threaten the sanctity of the family and
general moral behavior. Others disagree.
; Equality versus liberty
o Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal.” What does that mean?
o To promote equality, it is often necessary to place limits on the right to treat people
unequally. Equality and liberty can be conflicting values.
o What does equality actually mean? Equal opportunity to compete? Equal sharing of
physical resources and money?
o Egalitarianism is a system in which wealth and power is redistributed on a more equal
basis. Does this mean reduction or elimination of poverty?
o Reduction of economic equality conflicts with the right to property. Our economic
system is capitalism that is based on the right to property.
; Liberty in wartime
o Did the release of information regarding torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in
Baghdad have any relationship to liberty?
o What are the effects on liberty of the gathering of information related to terrorism? o Geneva Conventions
; The Geneva Conventions are a set of treaties ratified by the U.S. after WWII (1939-
; After 911, President Bush limited American adherence to the conventions.
; Then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez in a January, 2002, in a written
message to Bush said, “As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of
war. The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the
ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorist and their sponsors…In
my judgment, this …renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitation on questioning of
enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.” What are the
implications for our soldiers when captured and for the quality of information gained
; Property rights and capitalism
o The value of reducing economic inequality is in conflict with the right to property. o Reducing economic inequality typically involves the transfer of property from some
people to others.
o In 2005 in Kelo v. City of New London, the Supreme Court ruled that the city of New
London, Connecticut had the constitutional right to obtain private property through
eminent domain and could then sell that property to other private interests in order to
stimulate economic activity within the city. A key point was that the plan for economic
development had been approved by the city under relevant state statutes and included
other activities that were clearly public in nature, such as a park and a public docking
; A political ideology is a comprehensive set of beliefs about the nature of people and about
the role of an institution of government.
o Do you have a coherent political ideology or are you in the process of developing one?
o A political ideology is needed to help guide us in our reaction to government.
; Liberalism versus Conservatism
A FOUR-CORNERED IDEOLOGICAL GRID
Economic Equality Economic Liberty
Order Conservatives (Populists?) Conservatives
o Liberal used to mean “free.” It also used to mean a person who believed in limited
government and who opposed religion in politics. The meaning 100 years ago resembled
the current libertarianism.
o In the 1800s, Democratic Party was seen as the more liberal of the two parties. It stood
for limited government and opposition to moralism in politics.
o Democrats opposed Republican projects such as building roads, freeing slaves and
prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages.
o Beginning with Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921), economic policies began to change.
; By Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1945), Democrats stood for positive government action
to help the economy.
; Roosevelt still called himself a liberal.
; The meaning changed in the U.S. but remained the same elsewhere.
; Conservatism is a set of beliefs that includes a limited role for the national government in helping individuals, support for traditional values and lifestyles, and a cautious response to change.
; Liberalism is a set of beliefs that includes the advocacy of positive government action to improve the welfare of individuals, support for civil rights, and tolerance for political and social change.
o Some people use the term liberal as a synonym for radical and the term conservative as a
synonym for moderate.
; Those who are economic liberals and cultural conservatives are more likely to be
Democrats than Republicans, but often do not claim either.
; Those who are economic liberals but cultural conservatives are libertarians (not to be
confused with Libertarian party) and tend to support the Republican Party.
; Totalitarian Ideologies th century ideology – often totalitarian – that exalts the national collective o Fascism is a 20
united behind an absolute ruler. Fascism rejects liberal individualism, values action over
rational deliberation, and glorifies war.
o Communism is a revolutionary variant of socialism that favors a partisan (and often
totalitarian) dictatorship, government control of all enterprises, and the replacement of
free markets by central planning.
o An ideology based on a radical and fundamentalist interpretation of Islam is sometimes
; This ideology is followed by Al Qaeda.
; It rejects all Western democratic values and calls for the establishment of a
worldwide Islamic political order (the caliphate).
; The Taliban in Afghanistan are of this group.
; Baathists in Iraq are members of this group. They are sustained, not by their support
of Saddam Hussein, but by their ideology. They view the Arabs as a master race.
THE CHANGING FACE OF AMERICA
; America is aging, a characteristic of economically advanced countries.
o In spite of its aging, the population continues to grow due to immigration and improved
o The increasing age of the population will strain Social Security and health systems. o The population explosion across the world is subsiding.
; Though it is still high in undeveloped countries, it is diminishing in developing
; Due to immigration, the population of the U.S. is expected to grow, keeping the
percentage of the world’s population in the U.S. about the same in 2050 as it is now.
o The current fertility rate in U.S. is 2.1 children per woman; the long-term replacement
rate. Due to the size of the younger population, stability due to ratio of births to deaths
will take a while to be reached.
o The ethnicity of the U.S. is changing.
; The non-Hispanic white Americans fertility rate just over 1.8.
; The African American fertility rate is 2.1.
; The Hispanic fertility rate is 3.0 (in Mexico it is only 2.5).
o The Hispanic population is growing rapidly due to birth rate and immigration.
; Hispanics have become the largest minority group.
; Hispanics can be of any race and come from about 20 different countries which differ
in many ways.
; The largest groups are from Mexico, Puerto Rica and Cuba.
; Some Hispanics prefer the term Latino.
; The majority of Hispanics vote Democratic but most Cubans vote Republican.
; Other Trends
o There are an increasing number of women in the workplace.
o The U.S. is developing a better educated population.
o Abortion is a major political and social issue.
o The rate of divorce rose from 1965 (2.5/1000 people) to 1975 (4.8) and then began to
drop, 2002 (4.0).
o The murder rate has roughly followed the same path as the divorce rate. The murder rate
may be due more to the age of the population and the peak in percentage of young males
who are more apt to commit murder.