Government Basics!
* Why do politicians kiss babies when
campaigning for office?
* Why does Congress try to fix some issues
while putting others on hold?
* Why would the president of Georgia Power go
on different TV and radio stations telling
viewers how hard their company is working to
restore power outages?
Cartoon Analysis
1. Describe the symbolism of the cartoon?
2. What is the viewpoint of the cartoonist?
3. What are the potential politics of this cartoon?
Politics and Government
•Key Terms:
–Politics: the process by which groups of people make decisions
• “who gets what, when, and how”
• when to say/not say something
• when to do/not do something
• Examples…
–Institution: an org. that performs certain functions for society
• Examples…
–Government: an institution where decisions are made that resolve
conflicts; allocate benefits and privileges
Public Policy
* Public Policy:
- exercising government power in order to
alleviate problems facing all of society
- Politics101
* What are the most important public policy
issues today? Who should fix these issues?
Why Is Government Necessary?
• Order: maintaining peace and
security by protecting members of
society from violence and criminal
– the oldest purpose of government
• Liberty: the condition in which an
individual has the right to act
according to his or her own will
– can be promoted by or invoked
against government
• Is one more important than the other?
– Can we have a government that
promotes both equally?
Why Is Government Necessary?
• Power: the ability to influence somebody to do something
that he/she would not have otherwise done
– Authority: the right and power of a government to
enforce its decisions and compel obedience
• “to persuade people to follow a command”
– Legitimacy: the popular acceptance of a government
to exercise authority
Purpose of Government?
Thomas Hobbes:
“Every man is against every
man…and the life of man is
solitary, poor, nasty, brutish,
and short.”
*Govt. should:
- enforce laws
- defend citizens
- punish criminals
John Locke:
“Life, liberty, and the
enjoyment of personal
*Govt. should:
- guarantee peoples’ natural
- not place restrictions on
people without THEIR
* Exchange some citizen rights to * Power to the People!
have law and order
Forms of
Forms of Government
• Authoritarian: a government
whereby the ruler(s) have
absolute control
- people have no choice to
choose their leader(s)
- usually totalitarian a
government that controls all
aspects of a nation’s political
and social life
• Examples of either?
Forms of Government (cont.)
• Aristocracy: “rule of the
best” the most prominent
citizens rule
• Democracy: political authority
is vested in the people
- From the Greek words demos
(“the people”) & kratos
• PROS & CONS of each form?
What Kind of Democracy do WE
Direct Democracy
• Definition: Public Policy
decisions are made by the
people directly, rather than by
• Direct democracy is attained
most easily in small political
• Examples:
– Ancient Athens
– New England town
Direct Democracy Today
Direct Democracy at the State/Local Level:
–Initiative: allows voters to propose a law or a
constitutional amendment
–Referendum: allows the legislature to refer legislative or
constitutional measures to the voters for approval or
–Recall: allows the people to vote to dismiss an elected
official from state office before his or her term has expired
The Dangers of Direct Democracy
• The founders believed in government
based on the consent of the people
• However, they were highly distrustful of
anything that might look like “mob rule”
– Can you think of an example?
• Therefore, they devised institutions to
filter the popular will through elected
James Madison, The Federalist Papers #10
“A common passion or interest will, in almost every
case, be felt by a majority of the whole… and there
is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the
weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is
that such democracies have ever been spectacles
of turbulence and contention, and have ever been
found incompatible with personal security or the
rights of property; and have in general been as short
in their lives as they have been violent in their
A Democratic Republic
• Democratic Republic &
Representative Democracy
– government based on elected
– ELECTED representatives
make policy
People have the ultimate power
• Example: The United States
A Democratic Republic (continued)
• Principles of democratic government
– Universal suffrage: the right of all adults to vote
for their representatives
– Majority rule: the greatest number of citizens in
any political unit should select officials and
determine policies
• Minority groups still have rights & liberties
– Limited Government: powers of government
should be restricted, usually by institutional checks
• Ex’s Checks & Balances, Bill of Rights, Federalism
Theories: Distribution of Power
in Society
1. Who actually holds power & makes public policy?
2. Who should hold power and make policy?
Who really holds power in the USA?
* the PEOPLE?
* a FEW?
* certain
Who has the Power?
* Various theories exist about how power is
distributed in society:
1. What types of people have the most power in our
2. Can we change who has power in society?
What type of Democracy do we Have?
Distribution of Power Theories:
A. Elitist Theory: society is ruled by a small number of privileged
people who exercise power to further their self-interests
1. Marxist: influence of economic elites
2. C. Wright Mills: influence of power elite: corporate, military,
political (Eisenhower’s “military industrial complex”)
3. Max Weber: influence of bureaucracy
B. Majoritarianism: government should do what the majority of
people want
- Pluralism & Hyperpluralism
What type of Democracy do we Have? (cont.)
Pluralism : views politics as a
conflict among interest groups
- b/c so many groups exist, no
single elite could possibly
control all of them
Hyperpluralism: a state in which
many groups or factions are so
strong that a government is
unable to function
- many groups compete with
each other for control over
-"Pluralism gone sour"
- Policy is the outcome of
political haggling, compromises,
and ever-shifting alliances
among groups
- Government becomes
gridlocked and is unable to act
“Why can’t we just get along?”
Factions in your lives:
* Where do you see factions competing
on a daily basis?
Political Ideologies:
Liberalism versus Conservatism
Tensions Over Big Government
• How much power should the
American government have and
what role should it play in the
lives of its citizens?
– Example: Hurricane Katrina &
BP Oil Spill—in this scenario,
“big government” was
considered desirable
– Example: National security
policies—concerning issues
such as domestic surveillance,
most Americans value limited
government powers
The Traditional Political Spectrum
Political Ideologies:
Modern Liberalism vs. Modern Conservatism
- tend to favor
regulation of the
economy to benefit the
society’s individuals
- tend to favor freedom in
the economic sector 
limited govt. involvement
is best
- regarding social issues
they support social
freedom, civil rights,
and social change
- regarding social issues
they support traditional
values and lifestyles
Political Ideologies:
The Traditional Political Spectrum
• ‘Statism’ or ‘Populism’: strong support for
Government promoting both economic
and social equality
• Libertarianism: skepticism or opposition
toward almost all government activities
The Traditional Political Spectrum
A Four-Cornered Ideological Grid
• We can break down the electorate into:
– Cultural and economic liberals (libertarians)
– Cultural and economic conservatives (populists)
– Cultural liberals/economic conservatives
– 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
self-applied label, is more popular than any other label except
‘Hands Off’
Socially, while
‘Hands On’
‘Hands Off’
Economically, while
‘Hands On’ Socially
Where do you fit on the political spectrum?
1. Prediction: What political ideology do you think you are?
2. Take the Quiz: Go to the link at the bottom of Mr.
Shulman’s website to take the political spectrum quiz
3. Reaction:
A. After taking the quiz, where did you fit?
B. Did these results surprise you? Explain.
C. Do you think your political beliefs will eventually change?
Where do you see yourself politically in 5, 10, 50 years?
The Changing Face of America
• Aging
• Population growth
• Ethnic change
– Changes in Hispanic community
• Women in the workforce
• Increasing levels of education
U.S. Population