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Introducing Government in America

What are 6 areas in which government and politics impact a young person's life?

1. public school 2. age limits 3. employment 4. college 5. gas 6. apartment rental

What effects does government and politics have on public school?

the state certifies and pays teachers
school boards regulate education

What effects does government and politics have on age limitations?

the state or federal governments set the ages for 1. driver's license, 2. drinking alcohol, 3. voting

What effects does government and politics have on employment?

when employed, you must pay Social Security taxes
the state and federal government set minimum wage laws

What effects does government and politics have on college?

government-financed loans

What effects does government and politics have on gas?

the government sets low taxes on fuel

What effects does government and politics have on renting apartments?

landlord cannot discriminate based on race or religion

What is the trend of political participation among age groups over time?

America's youth have become less involved and less interested in politics, while the elderly have stayed as knowledgeable over time, and have voted more and become more interested over time.

Compare interest in politics between the youth and the elderly in the 1960s.

There was not a generation gap. 69% of the youth considered politics important, nearly the same as 65% of the elderly.

Compare interest in politics between the youth and the elderly in 2004.

Fewer young people are interested and more old people are interested than before. 52% of the youth consider politics important compared to 86% of the elderly.

What is the effect of decreased interest in politics?

Less knowledge about politics

Compare political knowledge between the youth and the elderly over time.

In the 1960s, young people answered 2/3 of questions about politics correctly and dropped to 1/3 of questions recently. On the other hand, the elderly have consistently answered over half the questions correctly over time.

What is the effect of less political knowledge?

Lack of civic virtues, voting without understanding policies, lack of participation

Compare voter turnout between the youth and the elderly over time.

In the early 1970s, more people 65+ voted than people 25-. Over time, elderly turnout rates have increased while those for the youth have generally decreased.

What is a factor that led to higher turnout rates for the elderly over time?

Medicare results in more able-bodied people over 65.

What is the effect of low youth turnout rates and high elderly turnout rates?

Policies regarding the concerns of the elderly are adopted while the concerns of the youth are ignored.

What political issues do the elderly care about?

Spending now

What political issues do young people care about?

Future plans for a healthy economy

What are some causes of the youth's apathy toward politics?

Belief that they can't make a difference
Belief that politicians are corrupt
Changes in the media
delayed responsibility

How have changes in the media caused the decline of youth participation in politics over time?

News has become less readily visible. In the 1960s, public affairs dominated the only 3 TV channels. Now, there are hundreds of channels and even more websites for the youth to occupy their time with. As a result, they avoid politics easily.


institutions and processes that create public policy

Who makes up the US government?



group of officials that puts laws and functions into effect

What are the 5 universal functions of national governments?

1. Maintain a national defense
2. Provide public services
3. Preserve order
4. Socialize the young
5. Collect taxes

5 Universal Functions of Government: 1. Maintain a national defense

protect national independence

5 Universal Functions of Government: 2. Provide public services

some services are shared by everyone, some are restricted to a criteria

public goods

goods that everyone shares

5 Universal Functions of Government: 3. Preserve order

example: National Guard constrained the Rodney King riots

5 Universal Functions of Government: 4. Socialize the young

government instills the youth with national values

5 Universal Functions of Government: 5. Collect taxes

how the government finances its operations


how we select our leaders and the policies they pursue

political participation

activities used by the citizens to influence who is elected and which policies are pursued

means of political participation

civil disobedience

single-issues groups

groups that have a narrow interest
vote based on one issue
draw membership from people new to politics

policymaking system

process of the creation and evolution of policy

What are the steps of the policymaking system?

1. People have concerns
2. Concerns are channeled through linkage institutions
3. Through linkage institutions, issues form the policy agenda
4. Policymaking institutions create policies based on the policy agenda
5. Policies impact the people

linkage institutions

organizations by which people's concerns are linked to the policy agenda

examples of linkage institutions

interest groups
political parties

policy agenda

issues that public officials give serious attention

Why does the policy agenda change often?

the policy agenda is based on the state of the country

political issue

and issue that people disagree about

policymaking institutions

the branches of government that take action on political issues

the 4 policymaking institutions

1. Congress
2. presidency
3. courts
4. bureaucracy

Describe how each policymaking institution might be involved in creating a policy

1. the president influences Congress about an issue
2. Congress creates the policy
3. bureaucracy implements the policy
4. the policy can be challenged in court, where the Supreme Court determines whether the policy is constitutional

public policy

course of action the government takes regarding an issue

types of public policies

congressional statute
presidential action
court decision
budgetary choices

congressional statute

law passed by congress


system of government in which policy reflects the citizens' preferences

Fundamental principle of democracy

majority rule

majority rule

the will of the majority of the populace is followed

What are the restrictions on majority rule?

minority rights

minority rights

inviolable rights
allow that minorities might join majorities through reasoned argument


few rulers acting on behalf of the ruled in a democracy

Ideally, what should be the relationship between the leaders and followers in a democracy?

the closer the correspondence, the more ideal the democracy

What are Dahl's 5 criteria for an ideal democracy?

1. Effective Participation
2. Enlightened Understanding
3. Equality in Voting
4. Complete Control of the Agenda
5. Inclusion

effective participation

every citizen has an equal opportunity to voice his opinion

enlightened understanding

each citizen has an equal opportunity to be educated about politics

equality in voting

every citizen can vote, and votes are weighted equally

complete control of the agenda

all citizens equally control the policy agenda, and citizens can change the agenda at any time


each citizen has equal opportunity in politics
this means all citizens are equally qualified to vote and run for office

How is effective participation hindered in the US?

the wealthy can afford to advertise their views while the middle class and the poor cannot

How is enlightened understanding hindered in the US?

the wealthy have greater access to a good education

How is equality in voting hindered in the US?

the poor have less flexible jobs that may preventing them from voting

How is complete control of the agenda hindered in the US?

the wealthy can use money to influence politicians to create a policy agenda that favors rich people

How is inclusion hindered in the US?

not every citizen has the knowledge to make well-informed political decisions, due to various factors, like wealth

What are the characteristics of Traditional Democratic Theory?

Dahl's 5 criteria
majority rule
minority rights

What are the 3 contemporary theories of American democracy?

1. pluralism
2. elite and class theory
3. hyperpluralism

pluralist theory

politics is a competition among groups that press for their own preferred policies

Who governs the country according to pluralist theory?

the public

According to pluralist theory, why would public preferences prevail?

bargaining and compromising among groups will lead to a policy that is representative of the majority

How does the variety of government contribute to pluralism?

If an group is unsuccessful in one arena, it can takes its case to another

How does Dahl explain pluralism?

all groups can make themselves heard at some point in the decision-making process

According to pluralist theory, why have there been positive developments in democracy recently?

abundant activity of interest groups

Who represent interest groups in Washington DC?


How do groups sell their goals?

mass mailing lists
media advertising
hard-sell techniques

According to pluralist theory, what is the cause of problems in American democracy today?

individualized political participation has grown, with a decrease in institution-based participation

How is the AARP an example of a decline in pluralism?

The AARP (American Association for Retired Persons) asks members to send checks from home

examples of interest groups

NRA, NOW, UAW (United Auto Workers), AARP

elite and class theory

societies are divided into classes
the upper-class elite rules

How does elite and class theory criticize pluralist theory?

although the government responds to many different groups, groups are represented to different degrees
For example, the poor may receive food stamps, but the rich get massive tax deductions, which are worth far more

What is the basis of the power of the upper-class elite?



holding assets such as property and stocks

According to elite theory, why are the wealthy able to control policy?

the wealthy are able to finance campaigns and control key institutions (eg. large corporations)


a theory that states groups are so strong that government is weakened

According to the theory of hyperpluralism, who truly governs America?

not the public

How do the overlapping jurisdictions of government contribute to hyperpluralism?

it is difficult for each government to agree on a policy

According to hyperpluralism, what is the relationship between groups and government?

Groups are sovereign and the government is their servant

Why do the multiple arenas of government contribute to hyperpluralism?

If a group is unsuccessful in Congress, it can take its case to the courts. Additionally, whatever a group may accomplish in one arena, another group can undo in a different arena.

How do politicians tend to respond to the many single-issues and interest groups?

They attempt to assuage them all

How is policy affected when the government tries to appease every group?

policy is confusing, contradictory, and muddled
or otherwise not created at all

What are four challenges to democracy?

1. more expertise
2. decline in participation
3. increasing cost of campaigns
4. diverse interests

Who is becoming the elite today?

Experts are replaced the wealthy as the few with power

Why has it become increasingly difficult for citizens to make well informed decisions?

Because knowledge is expanding, ordinary citizens don't understand complex issues

What trends show that participation in politics is declining?

less knowledge about politicians and policy
low youth voter turnout rates


political action committees

What is the function of PACs?

funding campaigns

Why are escalating campaign costs a challenge to democracy?

Politicians must pay attention to the concerns of PACs in order to fund expensive reelection campaigns. As a result, policy is geared toward wealthy PACs.

policy gridlock

rival interest groups prevent a majority from forming and therefore prevent policymaking

How are diverse political interests a challenge to democracy?

policy gridlock prevents the government from responding to the public's needs

What are the five elements of the "American Creed"?


political culture

set of values shared by a nation

What element of American political culture is reflected by the phrase "Better Dead Than Red"?

Americans are not willing to live under oppressive communist governments


people deserve equal rights and opportunities

How does equality in voting reflect egalitarianism?

through voting, people can shape policy that provides equal opportunities for themselves
everybody has the equal opportunity to vote


people should be independent and self-reliant

How is individualism reflected on America's views on government?

Americans believe in limited government

How did settlers shape modern individualism?

settlers were often people fleeing from oppressive feudal or clerical governments
in America, they wanted to government to leave them alone

How did America's geography shape individualism?

the vast frontier allowed people to be far from government


policies in which government does not interfere in the free market

How did individualism shape America's view of the economy?

since Americans believe in limited government, they believe that the government should not infringe upon trade

How does laissez-faire separate America from other western nations?

government in other democratic, western nations tends to be more predominant
governments of other nations provide healthcare, more housing, etc


political philosophy that supports the rights of average citizens in their struggle against privileged elites

How do both liberals and conservatives use the value of populism to promote their goals?

liberals claim that they protect ordinary people from big multinational corporations
conservatives claim that they protect ordinary people from big government

How do citizens become polarized?

intense commitment to culture, ideology, or a candidate results in rival groups

gross domestic product

the value of goods and services produced by a nation in one year

How much of the GDP does the government spend?

less than a third

In what jobs are most government workers employed?

state and local level government jobs
eg. teachers, police

Where does the national government spend most money?

Social Security
national defense
funding of state and local functions (eg infrastructure)

budget deficit

spending is greater than taxes collected

How many Americans work for the government?

18 million

How much of the federal budget is spent on Social Security?

1/5 of the budget

How much of the federal budget is spent on national defense?


How much of the budget is spent on medicare?


Why do we not have a direct democracy?

The authors of the Constitution did not trust the public to make informed decisions.

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