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Study Guide for American Government
Chapter 1- The Democratic Republic
Politics-process by which people decide which members of society receive certain benefits or privileges and which members do not. It is the struggle over power or influence within institutions or organizations that in turn grant those benefits or privileges.
Government-an institution within which decisions are made that resolve conflicts and allocate (assign) benefits and privileges
Order-security against violence
Liberty-greatest freedom of the individual consistent with the freedom of other individuals Authority-right and power to enforce its decisions
Legitimacy-when authority is broadly accepted
Major Features of direct democracy:
1. The people themselves (as in ancient Athens) make the important political decisions.
Major Features of representative democracy:
2. Like the United States, the people elect representatives to make the decisions 3. The framers or founding fathers understood that some people do not have the intelligence or proper schooling to make difficult decisions, so they allow people (citizens) to elect representatives who vote with the somewhat similar morals and reasoning.
Majoritarianism-the government does what the majority wants
Elite Theory-the real power lies with one or more elite groups If you want to learn more check out Where country wwii impoverished citizens, reduced the population, destroyed capital?
Pluralism-organized interest groups contend for power
If you want to learn more check out What is the meaning of homeostasis in the cell?
Conflicts that can occur between the principles of liberty and order:
1. Certain rights are withheld from individuals such as the case after the attack on Pearl Harbor in which thousands of Japanese Americans were forced, arrested, and held in internment camps based on the assumption that loyalty was to Japan.
2. Rights such as the right to privacy which is not specifically spelled out in the Bill of Rights but can be derived from other rights in the Bill of Rights. Some issues are abortion and private homosexual behavior. Some Americans believe liberty interferes or threatens the traditional social order.
Conflicts that can occur between liberty and equality:
1. Since the beginning of the United States the Declaration of Independence states, “All men are created equal,” but the value of equality was not always equal for all people or citizens. It took the Civil War (1861-1865) to end slavery but still only white males could vote. The specific terms in the phrase, “All men are created equal,” went more like this; “All white male property owners are equal.” The values held by the majority did not account for the minorities at this time in history. Don't forget about the age old question of What is the definition of utility in economics?
Conservatism-Those who favored the ideology of conservatism have sought to conserve traditional practices and institutions and do not want radical new change Don't forget about the age old question of What is the power of the situation?
Liberalism-stems from liberty and originally meant “free from prejudice in favor of traditional options and established institutions.” However, American liberals sought to use power of government for nontraditional ends.
Other American ideological positions:
Socialism, replacing investor ownership of major business with either government ownership of ownership by employee cooperatives. Does not play a major role in the United States. Don't forget about the age old question of What does unconditional stimulus mean?
Progressive, another term for liberals who didn’t want to be called liberals from negative views from conservatives.
How does changing American population and other social trends affect the future of our nation? Population growth is slowing in the United States, and by 2050, it is estimated that non Latino whites will be a minority of the total population. Despite concerns about inequality and unemployment, many social indicators, such as crime rates, have improved in recent years.If you want to learn more check out What promotes allopatric speciation?
Chapter 2- The Constitution
Colonial experience prepared Americans for independence
The first permanent English colonies were established at Jamestown in 1607 and Plymouth in 1620. The Mayflower Compact created the first formal government in New England.
Restrictions that Britain placed on the colonies
In the 1760s, British began to impose a series of taxes and legislative acts on the independent minded colonies.
Colonists responded with protests and boycotts of British products. Representatives of the colonies formed the First Continental Congress in 1774. The Second Continental Congress established an army in 1775 to defend the colonists against attacks by British soldiers.
Significance of Declaration of Independence
Most revolutionary aspects of the Declaration were its statements that people have natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; also that governments derive their power from the consent of het governed; and that people have a right to overthrow oppressive governments.
Significance of the Articles of Confederation
The first central government of the colonies working together, it set up a weak central government though.
Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation
The central government had no power to ensure compliance by the states with such measures as securing tax revenues and an army to protect the states and the government from foreign influence.
Important compromises reached at the Constitutional Convention
Virginia Plan-favored the larger states with the larger states using the number of representatives which were proportional to a state’s population.
New Jersey Plan-favored the smaller states with the plan being an amendment to the
Articles of Confederation. The only notable feature was its reference to the supremacy doctrine (was later included in the Constitution).
The Great Compromise (the Connecticut Compromise)-resolved the controversy between the small and large states. It kept the bicameral legislature from the Virginia Plan and also the upper chamber, or Senate in which equal representation of every state would be included to appease the smaller states.
Basic Structure of the Resulting Government
Arguments in favor of and the arguments against adopting the Constitution Why the Bill of Rights was adopted
Process of amending the Constitution: FORMAL
1. 2/3rds of each chamber of the Congress
2. A National Convention - 2/3rds State legislatures
The informal ways in which Constitutional interpretation has changed over time: 1. Congress Interpretation of Commerce Clause
a. Propose legislation
b. Commander in Chief
c. Executive Agreements
3. Judicial Review
4. Custom & Usage
a. Political Parties
Chapter 3- Federalism
Benefits of the federal system in the U.S.-governmental powers are divided between the national government and the states
How the various provisions of the U.S. Constitution provide a framework for federalism Constitution grants certain powers to the national government in Article 1, section 8. The national government has implied and inherent powers. The implied powers are those that are reasonably necessary to carry out the powers expressly given to the national
government. Inherent powers are those held by the national government by virtue of its being a sovereign state with the right to preserve itself.
10th Amendment to the Constitution states that certain powers are given to only the states, only the national government, and powers given to both national and state governments. State powers are called reserved powers. Delegated powers are powers only the federal government hold. Powers held by both are known as concurrent powers.
How, in the early years of the republic, the United States Supreme Court confirmed the authority of the national government
The interpretation of the necessary and proper clause of the Constitution in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), along with the Chief Justice John Marshall’s affirmation of the supremacy clause, enhanced the power of the national government. Also the broad interpretation of the commerce clause in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) further extended the powers of the national government.
How that authority was ratified by the Civil War
The Civil War also upheld the power of the national government supremacy versus the rights of separate states.
Dual federalism-a doctrine that emphasizes a distinction between national and state spheres of government authority.
This doctrine looks on national and states as co-equal sovereign powers.
Cooperative federalism-states and the national government cooperate in solving complex common problems.
Categorical grants-categorical grants were spread out across 4-hundred separate programs, but the five largest accounted for more than 50 percent of spending. The five are Medicaid, highway construction, unemployment benefits, housing assistance, and welfare programs. Before the 1960s, most categorical grants were formula grants.
Block grants-lessen the restrictions on federal grants given to state and local governments by grouping a number of categorical grants under one broad heading. It gives more flexibility on how the funds are spent.
Fiscal federalism-Fiscal—having to do with government revenues and expenditures—fiscal policy is policy concerning taxing or borrowing and then spending the revenues. When the
federal government makes grants to state and local governments, funds raised through taxation or borrowing by one level of government (the national government) are spent by another level (state and local governments). This process is called fiscal federalism.
Recent political developments and Supreme Court rulings that affect the distribution of power between the national government and the states
Immigration-Arizona cannot make it a crime when illegal immigrants fail to carry identification papers or attempt to find work. Arizona police cannot arrest individuals solely on suspicion of illegal status.
Health-Care Reform- First made the Affordable Care Act to be the most important states’ rights ruling in decades. The Court’s verdict was anticlimactic. It did not find the individual mandate—a penalty imposed on those who did not buy health-care insurance—violated the police powers of the states. By making Medicaid expansion optional for the states, the Court for the first time put limits on the ability of the federal government to coerce states by withholding grants.
Same-sex Marriage- By deciding to not interfere with the California case, the Court in effect prevented the state’s voters from banning same-sex marriage. But because of some states ruling against same-sex marriage, the Court may have to interfere and take the case to the federal level. Also, the Court’s ruling that the federal government must recognize state-approved same sex marriages was a victory for states’ rights, as well as for same-sex couples in the affected states.
The Voting Rights Act-The Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act was a striking triumph for states’ rights. The 1965 act imposed certain requirements on states and localities— mostly in the south—with a history of violating the voting rights of minority group members. The Court effectively destroyed the preclearance system—which certain areas had to obtain preclearance from the federal government to make changes in voting procedures or districts— giving all affected governments the right to set their own voting rules without restriction.