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Intro to American Government

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by: Hannah Vance

Intro to American Government PSCI 1040

Marketplace > University of North Texas > History > PSCI 1040 > Intro to American Government
Hannah Vance

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Two weeks notes over American Gov't
American Government: Laws and Institutions
Dr. Paul Hensel
Class Notes
25 ?




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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Hannah Vance on Thursday February 11, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PSCI 1040 at University of North Texas taught by Dr. Paul Hensel in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 18 views. For similar materials see American Government: Laws and Institutions in History at University of North Texas.


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Date Created: 02/11/16
Hannah Vance 1/21-28/15 PSCI 1040: Intro to American Government and Politics I. Intro to Politics & Government A. “Politics” 1. Lasswell: “Who gets what, when, & how” 2. Book: how society settles conflicts, and allocates the resulting benefits and costs  Who: many actors = individuals, political parties, interest groups, courts, presidents…  What: many interests = education, taxes, health care, social policy, law & order, defense…  How: many processes to determine this = vote, negotiate, court ruling, fight… B. Government 1. Max Weber (1918): institution in society w/ “monopoly on the legitimate use of political force” 2. Refers to military, police, legal system 3. Allows gov’t to maintain order, stop challenged (rebellion, secession)…  …although can create distrust and fear 4. “Social contract” – people allow this because it’s useful and the alternative is worse:  “Anarchy”: no rules, constant competition/conflict, absence of govt C. Major Functions of Govt (generally): 1. Protect citizens against outside threats 2. Maintain order w/in society (avoid anarchy)  Hobbes (1651): or else life is “nasty, brutish, and short” 3. Provide “public goods” (all can benefit, but can’t easily be provided by anybody except for the govt)  Often education, roads, fire department, defense, welfare….  Nature and extent of these goods varies across govts D. Forms of Govt Aristotle: govt by one, few, or many 1. Govt by One Person “Autocracy”  Monarchy (rule by divine right: historical UK)  Tyranny (rule by force/fear: Hitler, Saddam): book: “authoritarian gov’t” 2. Govt by Few: “Oligarchy”  Military rule (Egypt)  Theocracy (Iran, religious leaders) 3. Govt by the Many: “Democracy”  Direct democracy: even citizen involved in making decisions (Athens, student groups, etc)  Representative democracy (republic): citizens choose individuals to represent them (USA and UK) 4. Comparison  Very different solutions to providing the functions of govt  None can guarantee good or bad policies  Advantages/disadvantages of each?  Churchill: “it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time” II. Government & Politics in the U.S. A. Characteristics of US Political System 1. Republic Representative democracy  Is this better/worse than direct dem.? Why?  Some state/local govts have direct dem. Features (ballot initiatives):  Denton anti-fraking, many states’ gay marriage laws, etc.: is this desirable? 2. Constitutional Democracy  Foundational document (Constitution) describes the structure, powers, and limits of govt: restricts govt power  Not all democracies have a formal constitution (UK, Israel)  Some non-dems do (Kuwait, Monaco = const. monarchy) 3. Presidential Democracy: vote for chief executive president, legislature separately  President’s party can have majority in 0, 1, or both chambers of congress  Alternative: parliamentary: vote for your legislature, then parliament chooses prime minister (UK) III. U.S. Politic Culture: Liberalism A. “Political Culture” 1. Book: “ the widely shared and deep-seated beliefs” of a country’s people about politics” 2. Beliefs about “big questions” – not views on specific issues or candidates 3. Examples:  Who should govern? (One, few, many)  By what means? (Compromise, force, divine right)  For what ends? (Who in society should benefit?) B. Liberalism: shared by most Americans (but differ in how far it should go) 1. Emphasize individual liberty  Main role of govt: protect individual liberties – don’t favor groups 2. Limit government to specific power and roles  Govt needed for order and security (vital role of any govt, dem., or others  But only specific powers granted by society (social contract) C. Where did liberalism come from? 1. Emerged as political force in the 17 century Europe  Related to earlier philosophers (Hobbes, Locke, etc)  Challenged the rule by monarchs, nobles, etc  Let people make their own political, religious choices 2. Founding fathers very familiar with this  Central to declaration of independence, constitution  Dec. of Ind.: unalienable rights “life, liberty, pursuit of happiness” IV. Core Values of U.S. Politics A. Book: liberty, individualism, equality, self government 1. Each individual group may favor a different mix  Value one above all others, or none at all, etc  Influences choices about party/candidate to support priorities 2. Govt policies usually reflect different mixes  Impossible to satisfy all values/ all voters  Good reason for checks and balances (don’t let one view dominate, protect those who didn’t win) B. Liberty: “individual liberties” portion of political liberalism 1. Book: “individuals should be free to act and think as they choose, provided they don’t infringe unreasonably on the freedom and well-being of others 2. Freedom from govt restriction  Freedom of speech and assembly, freedom from religious persecution, etc  But don’t hurt others C. Individualism: choose your own path/ responsible for your own outcomes 1. Book: “commitment to personal imitative and self sufficiency” 2. More than most democracies emphasizes personal responsibility to provide for yourself  2/3 disagree with the idea that success mostly outside of your control  ¾ blame individuals, not society, for failure to succeed D. Equality: underlies core values 1. Book: “all individuals are equal in their moral worth and thereby entitled to equal treatment under the law”  Declaration: “all men are created equal” 2. Liberalism: ALL people have the same rights and liberties (no aristocratic privilege) 3. Doesn’t always seem true in actual practice  Slavery legal under constition  Only rich white men land owners had full rights  Today: vast gaps between rich and poor 4. Why different meanings of equality?  Equality of Outcome: everyone should have the same level of wealth, housing, food, happiness, etc.  Equality of Opportunity: fair chance to succeed by their own choices and same law 5. Examples from recent surveys:  Only 30% “definitely/ 20% “probably” govt should act to reduce income difference between poor and rich  2nd lowest  94% “society should do what is necessary to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed”  But 80-86% oppose explicit racial preferences in hiring and college admittance  US spends less than most democracies on welfare and more on education E. Self-govt 1. Book: “the people are the ultimate source of governing authority and should have a choice in their governing” 2. Declaration of Independence: govt’s derive their just powers from the consent of the governed  i.e. social contract: govt power/authority has to come from the people  give government these specific powers – either alternative is worse (anarchy/ no govt/ too powerful of a govt) F. Trade-offs: difficult to satisfy everyone 1. Individualism vs. personal equality 2. Equality vs. Liberty  Security at the airport V. Texas Politics Culture A. Background 1. Area: #2 (Alaska), Pop.: #2 (California)  Pop. Growth rate: #2 (Arizona) 2. Texas Economy: #2 (behind only CA)  One of the largest economies in the world  Diversified: Historically: oil, cattle, cotton, Today: energy, agriculture, technology, aerospace  Globalization: closely tied into global economy:  #1 in state exports; lower unemployment than national average  Largest trading partner = Mexico (36% of exports) B. Unique historical path 1. Only stast to be independent republic before union  1 13 states: former British colonies  Texas = home to numerous native, settlers 1519+  Also briefly settles by France (Fort St. Louis)  Part of independent Mexico (1821-1836)  Independent Republic of Texas (1836-1845)  Joined US in 1845 (Confederacy) C. Culture: Individual, self-reliance stronger 1. Mythology: Alamo, cowboys, oil, Dallas 2. “Traditionalistic subculture” (South): govt maintains existing order, benefits the elite:  Also elements of “individualistic” (Midwest/ NE) govt as a necessary evil; distrust it; keep it small  Not “moralistic” (N/W): see govt as a positive force to achieve the common good 3. Some implications:  Texans generally prefer small, limited govt  Power divided among many elected officials  Executive authority (governor) weaker than most states  Less support for taxes (no state income tax)  Although relatively high fees, other kinds of taxes/revenues  Less support for spending on social services  Although may change as population grows and demands increase D. Demographic and Majority Political Issues 1. “Minority majority”  White non-Hispanics: 44.5%  Hispanics/Latinos: 38.2%, African Americans 12.3%, Asians 4.2%  Growing trends: Hispanics 15% in 1960, 25% in 1990, Likely more than 50% by 2030  Already seen in schools: >50% Hispanic, 30.6% white 2. Aging Population  Around 10% older than 65; expect 18% by 2040  One consequence: tax base (more retirees, less workers paying taxes…)  Another: conflicts between older, younger voters (e.g. healthcare vs. education) 3. Urbanization: 85% “urban” (cities/suburbs)  One consequence: pop. Density, overcrowding  Noise, land use, traffic, many other problems  Another: conflicts between urban, suburban, rural districts (rarely benefit from same policies) 4. Uneven distribution of wealth, education  Below national average for household income, above national average poverty rate  Esp. along border  Below national average for education (% HS diploma, % college degree)  But huge differences by race/ethnicity  Below national average for health insurance  But in each category, some/many Texans are doing very well E. Relationship with Mexico 1. Economics: heavy trade (exports and imports), investment, travel across border  North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)  Annual crossings into TX: 7.5M trucks, 8K trains, 98K buses, 32M personal vehicles, 17M pedestrians 2. Immigration and other issues cross, too  Lots of both legal and illegal immigration  Social, econ., health, drug issues on both sides  Major issue for Texas, federal politicians


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