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Introducing Government in
America
Chapter 1
Government
• Definition:
– The institutions and processes through which
public policies are made for society.
• This definition leads to two basic questions:
– How should we govern?
– What should government do?
Politics
• Definition:
– The process by which we select our governmental
leaders and what policies these leaders produce.
Politics produces authoritative decisions about
public issues.
• Also consider Lasswell’s definition:
– Who gets what, when and how.
The Policymaking System
• The process
by which
policy comes
into being
and evolves
over time.
Figure 1.3
People
• Interests
• Problems
• Concerns
Linkage Institutions
•
•
•
•
Political Parties
Elections
News & Entertainment Media
Interest Groups
Policy Agenda
• Political Issues
– These are the “whats” that the various people
want taken care of.
• Items at the top of the policy agenda are
taken care of first.
• It may take years to get an item on the policy
agenda, and then several more years to get it
acted on.
Policymaking Institutions
•
•
•
•
Legislature (Congress)
Executive (President)
Courts (Federal and State)
Bureaucracies (Federal and State)
Policy
•
•
•
•
Expenditures of money
Raising or lowering taxes
New laws or regulations
Non-decisions (gridlock)
People
• Impacts of policies:
• Does it solve the problem?
• Does it create more problems?
Democracy
• Definition:
– A system of selecting policymakers and of organizing
government so that policy represents and responds to the
public’s preferences.
• Cornerstones





Equality in voting
Effective participation
Enlightened understanding
Citizen control of the agenda
Inclusion
Theories of U.S. Democracy…
• Pluralist Theory
– A theory of government and policies emphasizing
that politics is mainly a competition among
groups, each one pressing for its own preferred
policies.
• Groups will work together
• Public interest will prevail
Theories of U.S. Democracy…
• Elite and Class Theory
– A theory of government and politics contending
that societies are divided along class lines and that
an upper-class elite will rule, regardless of the
formal niceties of governmental organization.
• Not all groups are equal
• Policies benefit those with money / power
Theories of U.S. Democracy…
• Hyperpluralism
– A theory of government and politics contending
that groups are so strong that government is
weakened.
• Exaggerated / perverted form of pluralism
• Confusing / contradictory policies
• Gridlock- inability to act at all
Challenges to Democracy
•
•
•
•
Increased Technical Expertise
Limited Participation in Government
Escalating Campaign Costs
Diverse Political Interests
Questions About Democracy
• Are the people knowledgeable- and do they
apply what they know?
• Do interest groups help the process, or do
they get in the way?
• Do political parties offer clear consistent
choices for voters?
• Does the President & Congress work in the
best interests of ALL the people?
Questions about the Scope of
Government
• How big a role does the Constitution say
should be played by the federal government?
• Does a bigger, more involved (active)
government limit the people’s freedoms?
• Do we need a bigger, more involved
government to protect our freedoms?
Questions about the Scope of
Government, continued…
• Do competing political parties make for better
policies?
• Do more interest groups create a bigger
government?
• Does the media help control the size and
policies government?
Questions about the Scope of
Government, continued…
• Can the president control the government, or
has it gotten too big?
• Can Congress respond to the needs of the
people, or just to the interest groups?
• Do members of Congress expand government
by seeking to be re-elected?
Questions about the Scope of
Government, continued…
• Do the federal courts overstep their bounds
and intrude on the powers of other branches
of government?
• Are the federal agencies too large and
unresponsive to the public they are supposed
to serve?
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