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Poli Sci 220 Week 1 Class Notes

by: Christina Roualet

Poli Sci 220 Week 1 Class Notes Poli Sci 220

Marketplace > Northwestern University > Political Science > Poli Sci 220 > Poli Sci 220 Week 1 Class Notes
Christina Roualet
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These are the class notes from week 1 of lecture
American Government and Politics
Brian Harris
Class Notes




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This 9 page Class Notes was uploaded by Christina Roualet on Friday February 12, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Poli Sci 220 at Northwestern University taught by Brian Harris in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 21 views. For similar materials see American Government and Politics in Political Science at Northwestern University.

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Date Created: 02/12/16
Goals of class: “rules of the game” history and change over time of institutions history and evolution of political behavior how we analyze politics Politics: Finite pool of power in Washington Political science is the study of who gets this power when and how 3 main areas of inquiry in this class… 1. Principles and documents 2. Institutions 3. Political behavior Genesis of exam questions… What is confusing about the government? What is a good aspect of American government? Bad aspects? Do you think there is a problem that needs a solution from the government? Common criticisms of US government 1. Flawed voting mechanisms 2. Too partisan 3. Not enough compromise 4. Government interferes too much in the market 5. Congress never gets anything done 6. Policies implemented are inefficient 7. Politics disconnected from real world Response to criticisms… 1. Violence (generally not a key feature in US) 2. Criticisms underestimate importance and influences of political institutions, rules, etc. Justification of questionable government American government is broad in scope, covers a lot of policy arenas Has involved itself positively (i.e. Public sanitation, social security) Politics and policy are complex matters 5 general principles of political science 1. All political behavior has a purpose 2. Democratic politics is about the two “P’s” power and participation a. How is power distributed? Who participates? Why? 3. Politics is a collective action and government is established to solve collective action problems 4. Institutions matter (structure of behavior) 5. History matters (know what happened to know what will happen) Collective action Acting together to achieve some end… but there is a problem Much of what we want could be considered a PUBLIC GOOD A public good is something that cannot be denied to anyone its provided to e.g. National defense or public TV But if there is a public good and it cannot be denied then there is another problem FREE-RIDING: enjoying the benefits of a good or action and letting other people bear the cost What is politics? The means by which communities resolve conflicts Politics can be peaceful and ordered, or it can be violent Can involve different voting rules to resolve conflict Dictatorship (command) Majority rule Consensus (unanimity rule) See pg. 3 of logic Focus is on the procedure not the substantive outcome What causes conflict? Search for glory (egos) Different interest Different beliefs, ideologies, values, principles So in general, politics is the process that attempts to resolve conflict and break collective action problems How does politics resolve conflicts? Any political system that resolves differences allocates power Politics is about the distribution and sue of power What is power? Refers to an individuals influence over another individual and thus over the actions of the government Involves a personas authority e.g. her acknowledged right or legitimacy to rule or lead as well as her skill to use that authority How does politics resolve conflict? Different types of government have different distributions of power Autocracy – power rests with one person Oligarchy – rests with small group Democracy – rests with majority Depends on government institutions and rules How to we evaluate a political system? Power How is power distributed? To the one? Few? Many? Peacefulness and sustainability Can the system resolve differences without violence or falling apart? Democracy Can citizens participate meaningfully in government? Are citizens able to freely express themselves Liberty Can citizens act freely? Does state actively suppress individual action? Effectiveness What does government do? Can government provide public goods and reduce public bads (negative externalities) Items that are shared – cannot exclude use Organizational theory (Mancur Olson) 1. The purpose of an organization is to further the common interest of its members a. Labor union, political party, nation-state, interest group 2. As the group gets large, it is more rational for a person to shirk his or her responsibility to contribute to achieving that interest a. Why? Free-rider problem. Any one person’s contribution is less significant to the whole b. Consider public television What does government do to get things done? Because participation can’t always be noticed, must create incentive or sanction so that individual people will actually bear the burden of the organization Now consider voting: the likelihood that your vote will matter is slim. It is rational therefore not to bear the costs of voting (time, travel, becoming informed) so why do we all do it? Olson’s main point: create incentives to get members of large group to seek to maximize their personal welfare What might be some examples of these “separable incentives,” which are “distinct from the achievement” of the public goods? Government action can be collective or coercive Collective – refers to efforts of a group of people to reach and to implement agreements Reaching agreement among many people requires coordination Coercive action – compelling compliance even if such compliance is not what the individual would seek to do i.e. taxes (don’t want to be audited, stop signs (don’t want a ticket) coordination: members of a group must decide what they want and what they are prepared to do to get it problems of coordination come about when people are uncertain or lack information the collective action dilemma: individuals may ultimately benefit from cooperating with one another, but they also have a powerful incentive to break an agreement to work together dilemma 1: free riding – to benefit from the groups undertaking without paying a fair share f the cost dilemma 2: tragedy of the commons – not maintaining a collective good by seeking to personally gain from its use solution: link the individuals personal interest to the provision of the good 1. Force/punishment 2. Privatize (give everyone a piece of the good) The prisoner’s dilemma Two people in jail in separate cells and cannot coordinate their actions, assuming they are seeking the best self-interested outcome, what is the likely outcome? Self interested behavior can often lead to collectively suboptimal results Collective action brings benefits but also carries costs Transaction costs: the time, effort and resources required to make collective decisions What is benefit? Increases stability, value good more if its expensive If you could establish an ideal gov, would you impose high transaction costs? When? Want to make it difficult to change institutions one they are in place Keeping rules as written minimizes uncertainty and promotes stable governance -everyone knows what to expect Consider challenges to amending the constitution Conformity costs: costs people bear because collective decisions obligate participants to do something they prefer not to do Hat is relationship between two costs? Inversely related. Why? higher transaction cost, less likely to change, less likely to have to conform Condorcet’s paradox or majoritarian cycling: idea that we have preferences and agenda setting is very important preference ordering the idea that the agenda setter has incredible power and can use strategic method to gain advantage and minimize loses strategic behavior: person subordinates sincere preference to achieve results that stand a better chance of success. Designing institutions to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of collective action 1. Command – conferring authority to impose a solution regardless of the preferences of others 2. Veto a. A negative, blocking action to preserve the status quo 3. Agenda control a. Authority to introduce choice and thereby limit the choices that the group needs to consider 4. Voting rules a. Majority rule b. Unanimity rule, all must agree c. Plurality rule 5. Delegation – when someone authorizes someone else to make and implement decisions for them (principle-agent relationship Types of representative government Separation of powers Different branches operate in separate if somewhat overlapping spheres (executive, legislative, and judicial branches) parliamentary many different varieties exist all lodge decisive authority with a legislature which is then tasked with selecting an executive cabinet headed by a prime minister which system has higher transaction costs? Separation of power (because power isn’t centralized) Which system has higher conformity costs? Parliamentary John Oliver on voting : strategic planning how it is harder for minorities to get voting IDs Voter ID necessity – a way to get desired outcome in an election Legislative Makes laws Approves presidential appointments Two senators from each state Number of congressmen is based on population Executive Signs laws Vetoes laws Pardons people Appoints federal judges Elected every four years Judicial Decides if laws are constitutional Are appointed by the president There are 9 justices Can overturn rulings by other judges Legislative branch – makes laws Executive branch – enforce laws Judicial branch – interpret laws Federal v state v local Federalism: national, state, and concurrent powers National powers National defense Currency Post office Foreign affairs Interstate commerce State powers Charter local governments Education Public safety Registration and voting Intrastate commerce Concurrent powers Loan and borrow money Taxation Law enforcement Charter banks transportation Branches of Government National government Print money Regulate trade Make treaties Declare war Provide army and navy Establish post offices Makes laws necessary and proper to carry these out State government Issue license Regulate intrastate businesses Conduct elections Establish local governments Ratify amendments to the Constitution Take measures for public health and safety May exert powers the Constitution does not delegate to the national government or prohibit states from using both national and state… collect taxes build roads borrow money establish courts make and enforce laws charter banks and corporations spend money for the general welfare National government cannot… Violate the Bill of Rights Impose export taxes among states Use money from the Treasury without the passage and approval of an appropriations bill Change state boundaries State government cannot… Enter into treaties with other countries Print money Tax imports or exports Impair obligations of contracts Suspend a person’s rights without due process Neither national nor state may… Grant titles of nobility Permit slavery Deny citizens the right to vote due to race, color, or previous servitude Deny citizens the right to vote because of gender Checks and balances System designed to prevent any branch of the national government from becoming more powerful than another branch Checking power Input and output in each of the three spheres United States Congress US Senate – 100 members (2 per state), 6 year term, 2/3 passing vote, no debate limit US House of representatives – 435 people (based on States’ population), 2 year term, majority vote, 1 hour per speaker debate limit Today’s topics 5 principles of politics collective action tragedy of the commons American government fundamentals Separation of powers Checks and balances


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