The American System

Describe legitimate authority. Give one
example of legitimate and illegitimate
authority and explain how they are
different. Try to think of examples from
the federal level of government.
The American System
Chapter 1
What is political power?
 Two great questions about politics
 Who governs -those who govern will affect us
 To what ends -how it will affect our lives
 Power
[how does one know power is being exerted?]
 Definition- the ability of one person (group, etc.) to
cause another person (group, etc.) to act a certain
 Authority-the right to use power
 Legitimacy-that which makes a law or constitution a
source of right
 struggles over what makes authority legitimate
 must be in some sense "democratic" in the US today
What is democracy? Three different
 Democratic Centralism
 defined: where the "true interests" of the people are served, whether
or not those people are making decisions
 examples: China, Cuba, Soviet Union (past) and some dictatorships
 Participatory/Direct Democracy (Aristotle)
 defined: rule of the many
 examples: fourth century B.C. Greek city-states (well, the free, adult,
male, landowners anyway), New England townships
 Representative Democracy: Elitist theory of democracy [why elitist?]
 power acquired by means of competitive elections
 Justification
 Direct democracy is impractical for many reasons
 The people make unwise decisions based on fleeting emotions
(Demagogues) [Examples of fleeting emotions?]
 two types
 Presidential
 Parliamentary
How is power distributed in a
 Majoritarian Politics
 Leaders try to follow the wishes of the majority very closely
 Applies best when issues are simple and/or clear
 Reduce energy costs
 Reduce the deficit
 Stop the threat of terrorism
Democratic values, structure and
Fundamental Democratic Values
Popular sovereignty
Respect for the individual. State serves individual, not vice versa.
Equality of opportunity instead of equality of result [Explain.]
Separation of powers
Checks and balances
Constitutional law
Free and fair elections among competing persons and groups
Majority rule with strong minority rights. Fear of “tyranny of the
majority” led to protection of property rights.
Freedom of expression
Right to assemble and protest
Fundamental Democratic Structure
Fundamental Democratic Processes