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?