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Gateways to Democracy


A type of regime in which only the government itself is fully controlled by the ruler. (But social and economic institutions exist that are not under the government's control)


A system of government in which the power to govern is concentrated in the hands of one individual ruler


Economic system in which businesses and key industries are privately owned and in which individuals, acting on their own or with others, are free to create businesses

Checks and Balances

Government structure that authorizes each branch of government to share powers with the other branches (executive, legislative, and judicial), thereby holding some scrutiny of and control over the other branches

Civil Society

Voluntary organizations that allow communities to flourish.

Civic Interest

Concern for the well-being of society and the nation as a whole.


A revolutionary variant of socialism, government control of all enterprises, partisan dictatorship and no free markets


Individuals who distrust government, believing that private efforts are more likely to improve people's lives. In the social sphere, they usually support traditional lifestyles and tend to believe government can play a valuable role in shaping personal choices.

Constitutional Democracy

Limited government. Usually includes Constitutional checks and has multiple points of access to power.

Constitutional System

System of government in which people set up and agree on the basic rules and procedures that will govern them.


Idea of representation that says elected officials should do what the public wants and not exercise independent judgment


Rule by the people exercised by them either directly or indirectly by elected representatives.

Democratic Republic

Everyone can vote and the majority rules.

Direct Democracy

Political decisions are made by the people directly, rather than by elected representatives and it is attained most easily in small communities


Belief in human equality that disdains inherited titles of nobility and even inherited wealth

Elite Theory

Idea that public opinion is shaped by discourse among elites and is a top-to-bottom process.


Societies where political power is held by elites, not the masses or all people or even a "majority". Elites may consist of the people who hold the top positions in the government, the media, corporations, etc. They are usually wealthy, and usually highly educated. Because of their positions and status, elitism argues that these people control the outcome of all decisions.


Idea that all individuals are equal in their moral worth and so must be equal in treatment under the law and have equal access to the decision-making process

Equality of Opportunity

Expectation that citizens may not be discriminated against on account of race, gender, or national background, and that every citizen should have an equal chance to succeed in life.

Equality of Outcome

Expectation that equality is achieved if results are comparable for all citizens regardless of race, gender, or national background, or that these groups are proportionally represented in measures of success in life.

Executive Branch

Enforces the laws


Defined by Madison as any group that places its own interests above the aggregate interests of society.


Often totalitarian with an absolute ruler and rejection of individualism


System of government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between national and state governments


Those who were involved in establishing the US, whether at the time of the Declaration of Independence or the writing of the Constitution.


Those were involved in writing the Constitution.


Limit access


Grant access


Preferred elite rule, strong national government, strong chief executive, restrictions on "Gateways" for individual participation and influence


Set of beliefs holding that people, and not governments, are responsible for their own well-being


Voters can propose a law or a constitutional amendment

Interest Groups

Group of citizens who share a common interest - a political opinion, religious or ideological belief, social goal, or economic characteristic - and try to influence public policy to benefit themselves


Focused on individual equality and liberty, wanted strong states, limited national government, weak chief executive, expanding "Gateways" for individual participation and influence

Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian Views

Two political schools of thought or perspectives on what constituted good government

Judicial Branch

Interprets the laws

Legislative Branch

Makes the laws


Those who have faith in government to improve people's lives, believing that private efforts are insufficient. In the social sphere, they usually support diverse lifestyles and tend to oppose any government action that seeks to shape personal choices.


Skepticism towards government


Political value that cherishes freedom from an arbitrary exercise of power that constricts individual choice

Liberty and Order

The most fundamental aspects of democracy


System of policy making in which those with a numerical majority hold authority

Majority Rule

Idea that a numerical majority of a group should hold the power to make decisions binding on the whole group; a simple majority.

Minority Rights

Idea that the majority should not be able to take certain fundamental rights away from those in the minority.

Mob Rule

Government by a mob or mass of people with no formal authority whatsoever.


Individuals who are in the middle of the ideological spectrum and do not hold consistently strong views about whether government should be involved in people's lives.


System of government that assigns power to a single person who inherits that position and rules until death

Natural Rights

Natural (or unalienable) rights that government cannot take away.


System of government in which the power to govern is concentrated in the hands of a powerful few, usually wealthy individuals


Political value in which the rule of law is followed and does not permit actions that infringe on the well-being of others.


System of policy making in which competing interests hold authority over issues most important to them

Policy Agenda

Stage in the policy-making process in which a problem gets the attention of policy makers.

Policy Enactment

Stage in the policy-making process in which Congress passes a law that authorizes a specific governmental response to a problem

Policy Evaluation

Stage in the policy-making process in which a policy is evaluated for its effectiveness and efficiency; if changes are needed, the issue is placed back on the policy agenda.

Policy Formulation

Stage in the policy-making process in which those with a stake in the policy area propose and develop solutions to the problem that has been identified

Policy Implementation

Stage in the policy-making process in which the executive branch develops the rules that will put a policy into action

Political Culture

Set of beliefs common to a group of people

Political Equality

Idea that holds people should have equal amounts of influence in the political system.

Political Ideology

A set of consistent political beliefs

Political Parties

Broad coalitions of interests organized to win elections in order to enact a commonly supported set of public policies

Political Science

The study of politics: who governs, for what ends, and by what means. Also, the study of government and politics, of human institutions and behavior concerned with the process of authoritative control of human societies.

Political System

A set of institutions and activities that link people, politics, and policy


The process by which people make decision about who gets what, when, and how. The means by which the will of a community is determined and implemented


Those who oppose concentrated wealth and adhere to traditional moral values.

Power Elite

A small handful of decision makers who hold authority over a large set of issues

Problem Identification

The first stage in the policy-making process, in which a problem in politics, the economy, or society is recognized as warranting government action

Private Goods

Goods or benefits provided by government; most of the benefit falls to the individuals or families receiving them

Public Goods

Goods or benefits provided by government from which everyone benefits and from which no one can be excluded

Public Policy

Intentional actions of government designed to achieve some goal

Purposes of Government

To provide for the common defense, promote general welfare, secure the blessings of liberty


Allows voters to dismiss an elected official from office before term expires


Referred by the legislature to the voters for approval/ disapproval

Representative Democracy

A form of democracy in which citizens elect public officials to make political decisions and formulate laws on their behalf.


A form of government in which power derives from citizens, but public officials make policy and govern according to existing law.


Idea that government should implement laws and policies that reflect the wishes of the public and any changes in those wishes

Rule of Law

A legal system with known rules that are enforced equally against all people


The goal of democracy, whereby average people have control of the institutions of government.


Concern for one's own advantage and well-being.

Separation of Powers

Government structure in which authority is divided among branches (executive, legislative, and judicial) with each holding separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility.

Social Contract

People in a society would agree to the rules of the government as long as it protected their rights to life, liberty or property. The government has only the authority given it by the governed.


An economic system in which the government owns major industries


Participants in the policy-making system who each seek to influence the content and direction of legislation

Totalitarian Regime

The government controls all aspects of the political and social life of a nation.


Idea of representation that says elected officials should do what they think best, even if the public disagrees, and elections allow the public to render a judgment on their decisions

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