American Government and Politics Today

American Government and Politics Today
Chapter 1
American Political Culture
Politics and Government
Key terms:
• Politics: “who gets what when and how”
• Institution: an ongoing organization that performs certain functions for society
• Government: institution in which decisions are made that resolve conflicts or
allocate benefits and privileges
Why Is Government Necessary?
Maintaining peace and security by protecting members of society from
violence and criminal activity is the oldest purpose of government.
Why is Government Necessary?
Authority and Legitimacy
authority: the right and power of a government or other entity to enforce its
decisions and compel obedience.
legitimacy is popular acceptance of the right and power of a government or
other entity to exercise authority.
American Core Values:
Political Ideals
Liberty - greatest freedom of individuals consistent with freedom of other
individuals in the society
Equality – all people have same worth
Self-government – the people are ultimate source of governing authority &
must have a voice in how they are governed
Forms of Government
Totalitarian Regime—government controls all aspects of the political and
social life of a nation.
Authoritarianism—A type of regime in which only the government itself is
fully controlled by the ruler. Social and economic institutions exist that are
not under the government’s control.
Aristocracy—Rule by the “best”; in reality, rule by an upper class.
Democracy—A system of government in which political authority is vested
in the people. Derived from the Greek words demos (“the people”) and
kratos (“authority”).
A Democratic Republic
– Principles of Democratic Government
• universal suffrage, or the right of all adults to vote for their
• majority rule, the greatest number of citizens in any political unit should
select the officials and determine policies.
– Constitutional Democracy.
• limited government, states the powers of government should be
limited, usually by institutional checks. Without such limits, democracy
could destroy itself.
What Kind of Democracy
Do We Have?
Majoritarianism – rule by the people
– Elite theory – rule by the few
– Pluralism – rule by groups
– Bureaucratic rule –rule by administrators
Fundamental Rules of American Politics
Power is limited
Economic Equality
Property Rights and Capitalism.
– capitalism, an economic system characterized by the private
ownership of wealth-creating assets and also by free markets and
freedom of contract.
Patterns Unique to U.S. Politics
Liberalism vs. Conservatism
Conservatives tend to favor limited governmental involvement in the
economic sector. Economic freedom is seen as a necessity for the good
of the society. On social issues, conservatives advocate governmental
involvement to preserve traditional values and lifestyles.
Liberals tend to favor governmental regulation of the economy to benefit
individuals within the society. On social issues, liberals advocate a limited
governmental role. Social freedom is seen as a necessity for the good of
the society.
The Traditional Political Spectrum
socialism, a political ideology based on strong support for economic and
social equality. Socialists traditionally envisioned a society in which major
businesses were taken over by the government or by employee
libertarianism, a political ideology based on skepticism or opposition toward
almost all government activities.
Classical Liberalism
Liberal once meant limited government and no religion in politics. The term
evolved into its modern American meaning along with the political evolution
of the Democratic Party, which was once the party of limited government but
has become the party of (relative) economic equality.
A Four-Cornered Ideological Grid
The Ideological Grid
We can break down the electorate into cultural and economic liberals,
cultural and economic conservatives, cultural liberals/economic
conservatives (libertarians), and cultural conservatives/economic liberals.
• Classifying the Voters. All four viewpoints have substantial support
based on polling data.
• Conservative Popularity. However, the term conservative, as a selfapplied label, is more popular than any other label except “moderate.”