POLS 1101: American Government
Study Guide for Exam 1
Chapter 1: What are Governments and What do They Do?
∙ government is a set of institutions that endures over time and that, in relation to the people of a particular territory, authoritatively makes and enforces laws.
∙ gov’t for state of Georgia:
o a legislature, called the Georgia General Assembly, which consists of a Senate and House of Representatives;
o the institutions of the executive branch, including the offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor, as well as dozens of bureaucratic agencies; and
o the institutions of the judicial branch (i.e. courts), including the Supreme Court of Georgia and many lower courts.
∙ for the federal gov’t
o a legislature, called Congress, which is composed of a Senate and House of Representatives;
o an executive branch, including the offices of the President and Vice President, as well
as hundreds of bureaucratic agencies;
o the institutions of the judicial branch(i.e. courts), including the Supreme Court of the United
Statesand many lower federal courts.
∙ federalism: authority is partly divided and partly shared between the federal government and the 50 state governments ∙ Authority (as in A having authority over B) A has a right to issue commands to B and to expect B to obey those commands If you want to learn more check out What is the second moment of area about any axis?
∙ Legitimate claim to authority American government claims legitimate authority over the American people based on the theory that the people are actually the highest authority in the land and that they consent to be governed according to the terms and principles of the Constitution
∙ Power (as in A having power over B)
∙ Laws made by Congress or state legislatures are called “statutes” and those made by city (or “municipal”) legislatures—like the Atlanta City Council—are called “ordinances.” modern agencies do not only enforce laws; they also make rules, called regulations, which are understood to have “the force of law.” Like statutes, the regulations made by bureaucratic agencies (organization units within executive branch responsible for implementing specific public policies and/or providing public services)
∙ Why, according to the textbook, is Max Weber’s definition of government (as that which has “a monopoly over the legitimate use of force over a territory”) misleading? First, an emphasis on physical force emphasizes the executive function of government at the expense of the legislative and judicial functions performed by government. Being the foremost maker and judge of the laws governing society seems to be every bit as much a part of what government is as We also discuss several other topics like What is the meaning of ionic in intermolecular interactions?
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being the foremost wielder of physical force. Second, the notion of a monopoly (i.e. an exclusive claim) on the legitimate use of force does not square well with the idea of federalism.
∙ A “sovereign government” claims that no person, group or organization either within its territory or outside its territory has authority over it. ; America has popular sovereignty, meaning the people rule it.
∙ Threatening punishment to deter disobedience is an example of using a “negative incentive” because it involves seeking to influence behavior by credibly threatening to impose a burden if a particular action is taken (or not taken). A positive incentive, by contrast, involves seeking to influence behavior by credibly promising to provide a benefit if a particular action is taken (or not taken). Positive and negative incentives are sometimes referred to as, respectively, “carrots” and “sticks.” (The metaphor here is that of a cart driver trying to get a donkey to pull the cart by dangling a carrot in front of the donkey or by threatening to strike it with a stick for not moving.) If you want to learn more check out How can you describe the international criminal justice law?
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∙ In the United States, legislatures are said to control the power of the purse—since only they can pass laws that impose taxes or authorize spending—and the executive branch controls the power of the sword (use of military force). ∙ Public goods are goods that, once provided, no one in a group can be excluded from enjoying. For this reason, in many cases private goods (which are excludable), like pencils, can and will be provided by businesses or individuals who sell them to customers. The problem with non-excludable (i.e. public) goods is not only that no one can demand payment in exchange for their enjoyment, but also that individuals within a group can easily lack motivation to voluntarily contribute to providing them. But when most people try to free ride, the public good does not get provided. When free
riding threatens to prevent a group from providing a public good, the group faces what is called a “collective action problem.”
Chapter 2: Introduction to the American Way of Government
∙ The word “ideology” is sometimes used to refer to beliefs about the proper role of government (or legitimate purposes of government). Different views on the proper role of government tend to emanate from deeper differences over core values and beliefs about human nature and society.
∙ Most Americans favor two basic purposes of government: securing rights and promoting happiness (or welfare). Among the basic rights—which are called “natural rights” or, more commonly today, “human rights”—that Americans think government has a responsibility to secure are the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. If you want to learn more check out How to be computer literate?
∙ Since Americans believe “securing rights” requires government to both protect and respect rights, Americans are known around the world for embracing the principle of limited government.
∙ Natural rights are different from legal rights in that legal rights are a part of written human-made laws whereas natural rights are said to exist by nature and are discoverable through reason. According to the Declaration, at a minimum, all human beings have natural rights to life (i.e., the right to not be killed), to liberty (i.e., the right to not be enslaved or physically restrained), and to pursue happiness without unjust interference by others.
∙ But Americans today disagree about other rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For example, some Americans accept, while others reject, its assertion that one of the rights governments should secure is “… the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.” This is an example of what are called “socioeconomic rights[”—which are social or economic services or benefits that governments and/or private employers have a duty to provide or guarantee. Other examples of socioeconomic rights include the right to access to healthcare, housing, and to decent-paying jobs.
∙ (Marxist-Leninist socialism). Most Americans reject the idea that a legitimate purpose of government is for it to take over ownership of all major parts of the economy and forcefully enact a social revolution that brings about perfect economic equality and the end of all class oppression. State socialists believe market capitalism necessarily results in too much economic inequality and in oppressive relationships between workers and the owners of capital.
∙ 2 other defining factors: constitutional government ( The federal government is bound by the laws declared in the Constitution.) and democracy.
∙ What does it mean to say that in a constitutional government “ordinary laws can be unlawful”? If a law passed by Congress violates the Constitution, then that law is considered “unlawful,” “illegal,” “illegitimate,” “void,” or, equivalently, “unconstitutional.”
∙ having a single written constitutional document is unnecessary for a government to be considered “constitutional.” Like American government, the government of Great Britain is also effectively bound by fundamental laws, and is thus considered to be a constitutional government. However, these laws are written in dozens of separate documents, including, most prominently, the Magna Carta (enacted in 1215) and the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Furthermore, having a single written constitutional document is also insufficient for a government to actually be a true constitutional government. Many governments have what are called “sham constitutions”: documents with fundamental “laws” that the governments routinely violate.
∙ According to the textbook, what is the most basic aspiration Americans strive for by binding their government to fundamental laws? adequately empowered so that it can protect rights, promote happiness, and provide public goods, but also adequately controlled so that it does not become a threat to rights.
∙ What, according to James Madison, is the “great difficulty” one must confront when “framing a government which is to be administered by men over men”? since few if any of us are that virtuous, and it’s nearly impossible to know whom among us is that virtuous, we need government and we need to control the government. Put simply, the aim of constitutional government is to empower and control government; that is, to achieve limited government.
o What, according to the textbook, did Madison mean by saying “a dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government.” the key to controlling government is to make sure there is (first and foremost) a “dependence on the people,”; i.e. democracy
o What, according to the textbook, did Madison mean by saying “auxiliary precautions” are also needed for controlling government? by “auxiliary precautions” he was referring to a principle that we now call “checks and balances,”
∙ three general ways and ten specific ways that American citizens are legally and institutionally enabled to exert control over government:
o Helping to Elect Who Serves in Government (1) You can run for elected office. (2) You can vote in free elections. (3) You can openly advocate for a candidate running for elected office (and perhaps thereby persuade others to vote for that candidate). (4) You can work for, and/or donate money to,
a candidate’s campaign. (5) You can work for, and/or donate money to, a political party.
o Seeking to Influence the Behavior of those Serving in Government (6) You can directly voice your views and needs to government officials. (7) You can start, work for, and/or donate money to an interest group that, in turn, seeks to influence government officials. (8) You can serve on a jury. (9) You can sue government in court if you believe it has violated one of your legal rights or denied you a benefit to which you are legally entitled.
o Working Outside the Normal Democratic Process in Order to Improve it (10) you are also free to engage in many activities outside the normal democratic process in order to create changes to the
normal democratic process itself.
∙ Constituents” are those whom elected officials represent and to whom they are held accountable via elections ∙ Make sure to understand the four freedoms necessary for democracy discussed in Section 126.96.36.199) adults are free to seek election to government office; 2) elections are “free elections” as defined above; 3) people are free to think, believe, speak, debate, petition, contact government officials, join or form organized interest groups, join or form political parties, assemble, pursue the truth, and publish ideas and factual claims (without censorship or intimidation); and 4) procedural protections are in place to prevent government from falsely accusing and/or punishing individuals for “crimes” when in fact the government’s real motive is to intimidate, detain, torture and/or kill those who attempt to exercise one of the above freedoms.
Chapter 3: Introduction to the American Way of Politics
∙ politics – nonviolent, open , and free activities through which people bound by the same stable democratic government, and who often have different opinions and interests, struggling to exert power over what the government does ∙ According to the textbook, what are “two (sometimes overlapping) sources of disagreement …. [that] are constant objects of political contention in the United States.”
o Americans have different opinions about the proper role of government and different economic interests ∙ Be able to identify someone as “liberal” (i.e., “to the left”) or “conservative” (i.e., “to the right”) based on how they stand on the following five dimensions of policy discussed in Section 2.1.1. of the textbook:
o (1) Regulating the Market Capitalist Economy; liberals are more likely than conservatives to support government regulation of the market capitalist economy. Conservatives tend to be more optimistic than liberals that the market capitalist economy will be productive, stable, fair, and safe (for workers, consumers and the environment) without government regulation
o (2) Programs Promoting Economic Security, Welfare and Equality; Liberals are more likely than conservatives to support government programs intended to reduce economic inequality or that provide low income Americans, children and/or the elderly with income support and access to affordable food, housing, education, and healthcare
o (3) Promoting Social Equality of Historically Oppressed or Underprivileged Groups; conservatives tend to be more concerned than liberals with maintaining the traditional statuses and roles of those—e.g., men, whites, and heterosexuals—who have historically been most privileged in American society. Thus, liberals are more likely to support, and conservatives are more likely to oppose, policies intended to enhance the social status, influence and freedom of women; nonwhites; recent immigrants; and gay, lesbian, bisexual and
o (4) Upholding and Promoting Traditional Moral Values; Conservatives are more likely than liberals to support laws and programs intending to uphold and promote “traditional moral values,” such as moral prohibitions on premarital sex, abortion, out-of-wedlock-birth, gambling, drug use, pornography, obscenity, and homosexuality.
o (5) Law Enforcement and the Criminal Justice System. conservatives tend to emphasize the need for punishing those who are guilty of crimes while liberals tend to emphasize the need for securing the rights of those accused of committing crimes
∙ How are liberals and social democrats (or “progressives”) similar to and different from each other? Those who are considered “center-left” (ex: Clinton) are typically called “liberals.” Those on the left wing (ex: Sanders) are referred to as “progressives” or “social democrats.” Where they differ is in the degree to which they think the government should regulate the economy and redistribute economic resources from the wealthy to low and middle income Americans. While center-left liberals favor regulation and redistribution, they favor it more modestly than do those on the left wing, and they are generally more willing to enact policies (like the Affordable Care Act) that simply regulate (instead of replace or break-up) large business corporations.
∙ How are libertarians similar to and different from liberals? Libertarians favor not only limited government, but also minimal government: i.e., the least amount of government authority and power possible. libertarians do not support government programs that seek to promote the welfare or happiness of citizens beyond what can be achieved through the unregulated market capitalist economy. They tend to think that any such government programs require unjust interference with the property or liberty of some citizens for the sake of others.
∙ How are libertarians similar to and different from conservatives? libertarians are more extreme than conservatives when it comes to opposing economic regulations and the welfare state. For example, whereas conservatives will advocate for less spending on programs like Social Security or Medicare, libertarians tend to think such programs are illegitimate uses of government power and should be completely eliminated
∙ How were state socialism and fascism similar to and different from each other? In the ideal society that state socialists envisioned (though never came close to creating), economic resources would be distributed to people on the basis of need, people would contribute to society based on their ability, and all oppressive distinctions and divisions based on class, religion and race would be eradicated. The ideology of state socialism was animated by a
radically egalitarian deal. By contrast, fascism was at its core anti-egalitarian. It embraced and encouraged class divisions, pursued the extermination of “inferior races,” mandated the loyalty and submission of subordinates to a few idolized superiors, and viewed military domination of other “inferior peoples” as the highest aspiration of politics.
∙ What is the difference between “principled politics” and “the politics of interest”? On any given policy proposal, some stand to gain and others stand to lose and this fact leads individuals and groups to engage in politics in order to advance policies that benefit themselves and pass burdens onto others. This is referred to as the politics of interest.
o ex: When weapons-manufacturing companies lobby government to convince it to start a war, they do so because they expect their profits to increase if the war is fought. If they are successful, they benefit, while taxpayers and soldiers bear the burden
∙ Make sure to know and understand the four political scientific models of American politics discussed in Section 3. o majoritarianism: according to this model, the opinions and interests of the majority of Americans tend to prevail, through the mechanism of democratic elections, in the struggle for power over government.
o elite theory: a tiny group of connected and wealthy Americans, totaling around 3000 in number, are the real rulers of America
o pluralism: there is no single group that dominates American politics. Instead, for any given public policy area, any group that has an interest or principle at stake can (and will) organize and exert effective influence over policy
o biased pluralism: American politics is largely a contest to influence government by those with conflicting ideologies and interests, but only among those of relatively high income and education. These Americans may, in a broad sense, share certain values and interests, but they also disagree considerably. Thus, the system is plural (i.e., represented by diverse values and interests) but biased toward the particular values and interests that concern and divide the relatively affluent and well educated.
Chapter 4: Constitutional Origins, Principles, and Development
∙ The Declaration of Independence expressed philosophical principles that are sometimes referred to as “America’s Creed.”
o What does that creed say about the legitimate ends (i.e., purpose) of government? to secure natural rights o According to that creed, what is the source of government’s legitimate authority? the people, the “governed” o According to that creed, what do the people have the right to do when confronted with a government that is
destructive of the ends which governments should serve? to overthrow the gov’t and create one that meets their needs; “right of revolution”
∙ In chronological order:
o signing of the Declaration of Independence ????first round of revolutionary-era state constitution making, ratification of the Articles of Confederation ???? the Critical Period (Shays Rebellion was during the Critical Period) ???? signing and ratification of the original U.S. Constitution ???? ratification of the Bill of Rights
∙ the first five design principles of the Articles of Confederation and how these contributed to the weakness of the central government
o (1) Confederal Structure: The Articles of Confederation created a “confederacy.” In confederacies (or “confederations”), there is a central government and state governments, but the system is set up so that the states maintain as much sovereignty and independence as possible. The central government was unable to effectively exercise power over the state governments.
o (2) No Distinct Branches of Government: The central government consisted solely of a unicameral legislature. The Articles did not create independent executive or judicial branches of government. With no executive branch, there were no permanent government departments or agencies committed to carrying-out public policy. And this also meant there was no branch constitutionally dedicated to engaging in diplomacy, meeting with ambassadors from foreign countries, or with commanding the military during times of war
o (3) Lack of Clear Supremacy of Treaties and Other National Laws: A closely related feature of the Articles of Confederation that also contributed to the weakness of the central government was that it did not explicitly stipulate that treaties entered into by the United States were binding agreements that took precedence over state laws. Due to this lack of clarity, states often passed laws that contradicted the terms of treaties entered into by the U.S. with foreign countries. This, in turn, created tensions with foreign countries and rendered it difficult to cooperate for mutual benefit.
o (4) Tight Control of Congressional Delegates by State Legislatures: The delegates who served in the Congress were tightly controlled by the state legislatures. The voting rules under which delegates operated in Congress added to the ease by which legislatures were able to make sure they were represented exactly as they wanted.
o 5) Supermajority Voting in Congress: The Articles of Confederation stated that for Congress to enact any important policy, the support of a supermajority of nine states (70%) was required. The difficulty of meeting the supermajority requirement for enacting policies further weakened Congress’ power.
o (6) No Direct Control by the People over Congress: the Articles of Confederation gave the people no direct control over Congress. The people did not elect their representatives in Congress. Instead, every member of Congress was appointed by the state legislatures.
∙ What was “the great and radical vice” in the design of the Articles of Confederation according to Alexander Hamilton? The Confederal structure
∙ Why did this “vice” contribute so greatly to the weakness of the Articles of Confederation? The problem with attempting to have a government over governments was that the central government was unable
to effectively exercise power over the state governments.
∙ Critical Period – a time when it seemed America’s revolutionary experiment in democratic government was on the verge of ending in disaster. One major cause for concern was the apparent instability of the union of states: The main reason was that the states were becoming antagonistic and even hostile toward one another. It was already clear, for example, that there was a growing divide between Northern states and Southern states over the issue of slavery.
∙ How did the principle of popular sovereignty help the Founders to get away with “unconstitutionally establishing an entirely new constitution”? Relatedly, why does Article VII of the Constitution call for ratification through state conventions instead of through state legislatures? According to the fundamental law laid out in the Articles of Confederation, the only lawful way to amend the Articles was by unanimous consent of the state legislatures. This led the founders to devise an ingenious way to get around the state legislatures. Instead of submitting the proposed constitution to the legislatures, the Founders decided to submit the Constitution to special popularly elected ratifying conventions in each state.
∙ design principles of the original U.S. Constitution:
o (1) Federalism
o (2) Popular Sovereignty
o (3) Representative Democracy
o (4) Bicameralism
o (5) Separation of Powers / Checks and Balances
o (6) Small List of Civil Liberties
∙ Which institution (House, Senate, President, or Supreme Court) was designed to be held the most closely accountable to the people? The House of Reps Which was designed to be the least accountable to the people? The Senate ∙ For how long are terms for ..
o members of the U.S. House of Representatives? 2 years
o U.S. senators? 6 years
o U.S. presidents? 4 years
∙ What is the difference between a direct democracy and representative democracy? What kind of democracy did the Founders create? direct democracy is ruled directly by the people, in a representative democracy people elect representatives who share their points of view who then represent them and their views in Congress; Founders created a representative democracy
o Why did the Founders choose a bicameral legislature instead of a unicameral one? To represent both large and small states, and to create an “upper house” (i.e., Senate) that was a quasi-aristocratic part of the legislature that would counterbalance the more democratic “lower house” (i.e., House of Representatives) o What purposes were served by the system of checks and balances?
∙ What was “the Great Compromise”? Under the Virginia Plan, larger states would have more representatives in Congress than would smaller states. This is referred to as “proportional representation.” By contrast, the New Jersey Plan proposed retaining the Articles of Confederation’s scheme of representation wherein each state had an equal number of votes. This is referred to as “equal state representation.” Great Compromise was a combination of the two, making a bicameral legislative branch that consisted of the House of Reps (which gave proportional representation) and the Senate (which gave equal state representation).
∙ Make sure to know and understand the four ways discussed in the textbook that the Original Constitution protected slavery.
o (1) Three Fifths Clause
o (2) Electoral College: the number of Electors in each state would be equal to the number of representatives each state had in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Since each state had an equal number of Senators, the important part of this formula was that states would get more or fewer Presidential Electors depending on the number of representatives allocated to them in the House of Representatives. Since the number of seats in the House was to be based on population, it followed that states with smaller populations would get fewer Electors to vote for President and larger states would get more Electors. And larger states were slave states.
o (3) Slave Trade Clauses : clause guaranteed that Congress would not ban the slave trade prior to 1808, which was twenty years after the year (1788) they expected the Constitution to be ratified.
o (4) Fugitive Slave Clause: The so-called “Fugitive Slave Clause” granted slave owners a constitutional right to recapture runaway slaves who had fled to other states, including states where slavery was illegal. And, as importantly, it took away the right of states to pass laws to protect and/or emancipate runaway slaves.
∙ Which group—the Federalists or the Antifederalists—supported ratification of the U.S. Constitution? Federalists o Why were the Federalists and Antifederalists “co-founders of the Constitution”? The Bill of Rights, and even the 27th Amendment, attest to the fact that the Antifederalists were, in a very real sense, co-founders of the Constitution along with the Federalists.
∙ basic subject areas covered by the seven articles of the Original Constitution:
o Article I: Legislative Power; Limits on Federal Government Authority; Limits on State Government Authority
o Article II: Presidency
o Article III: Judiciary
o Article IV: States and the Union
o Article V: Constitutional Amendment Procedures
o Article VI: Status of Legal Authority and Obligations under the Constitution
o Article VII: Method and Requirements for Ratifying Constitution
∙ Which amendments make up the Bill of Rights?
o first 10
o The first nine amendments primarily protected individuals from abuse by the federal government. We will look closer at these amendments in the chapter on civil liberties. The 10th Amendment was concerned with reinforcing the principle of federalism. It declared that the federal government, although supreme within its sphere of authority, only has the authority that is granted to it in the Constitution. All other authority is reserved by the state governments (or the people). We will consider the 10th Amendment more closely in the chapter on federalism.
∙ last two amendments in the Founders’ Constitution: The 11th Amendment (ratified in 1795) sought to protect state governments from being sued in federal courts by citizens of other states. The 12th Amendment (ratified in 1804) sought to alter the Electoral College so that it was easier for political parties to elect their favorite candidate for President and another member of the same party as Vice President.
∙ Which three amendments are referred to as the Reconstruction Amendments? o 13th: abolishes slavery
o 14th: declared equal citizenship for everyone
o 15th: granted everyone the right to vote