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Pitt PS 0200 - Government

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PS 200 1st Edition Lecture 1Chapter 1: Understanding American PoliticsI. Making Sense of American Government and PoliticsII. Why Do We Have a Government?A. Government: the system for implementing decisions made through the political process. Two broad purposes are to provide order and promote general welfare.B. Forms of Government1. Aristotle classified government as 1) monarchy: ruled by one, 2) aristocracy: ruled by a few, and 3) polity: ruled by many2. In a federal system, power is shared among local, state, and national levels of government3. In a unitary system, all power is held at the national level4. A confederation is a less common form of government in which states retain their sovereignty and autonomy but form a loose association at national levelC. Governments Provide Order1. Thomas Hobbes said life in the “state of nature” would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”2. US Constitution Founders had two central goals: 1) “provide for the common defense” and 2) “insure domestic tranquility”3. Madison assumed people are self-interested4. Factions: groups of like-minded people who try to influence the government. American government is set up to avoid domination by any one of these groups5. Madison thought factions were opposed to the public good and was afraid of a faction forming tyranny6. American government split three waysa. Separation of powers: divides government into three branches and assigns distinct duties to each branchb. Checks and Balances: gives each branch some power over to the other twoc. Federalism: divides power by allotting different responsibilities to local, state, national governmentsD. Governments Promote the General Welfare1. Collective action problems: Situations in which members of a group would benefit by working together for an outcome, but each individual is better off refusing to cooperate and reaping benefits from those who do work. This makes it difficult to achieve shared goals2. Free rider problem: incentive to benefit from others’ work without you doing anythingIII. What is Politics?A. Politics: the process that determines what government doesB. Politics is conflictual. Compromise is often necessary to produce an outcome that can be enacted1. Compromise and bargaining are essential to getting things doneC. Political process matters. It’s a mechanism for resolving conflict1. Politics is process that determines what government does, none of which is inevitable2. Yet, politics is more than elections. D. Politics is everywhere. 1. Actions by federal government touch every aspect of our livesIV. Sources of Conflict in American PoliticsA. Economic Interests1. Free market: economic system based on competitions among businesses without government interference2. Economic individualism: autonomy of individuals to manage their own financial decisions without government interference3. Democratic politicians tend to favor redistributive tax policies: use taxation to attempt to create greater social equality. They are inclined to regulate industry to protect environment and worker safety4. Republicans prefer lower taxes, less spending on social policies, support free marketB. Cultural Values1. Culture wars: political conflict in the US between “red state” Americans, those who have strong religious beliefs, and “blue-state” Americans, tend to be more secular2. Creationism, gay marriage, abortion, stems cell research, school prayer, etc.C. Racial, Gender, and Ethnic Differences1. As long as there are racial and ethnic differences in employment, education, health, etc., race and ethnicity will matter in politicsD. Ideology1. Ideology: set of ideas and beliefs that enables an individual to evaluate the political world2. Conservative: support for lower taxes, free market, more limited government3. Liberal: stronger government programs, more market


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