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1- The Purposes of Government

I) What is Government
A) made up of the formal institutions and processes so decisions are made for a group of
people
B) mostly made up of 3 components
a) people
(i) elected officials- those who make laws and enforce them
1 Congress, President, Governor, Mayor, etc
(ii) public servants- those who carry out the day to day business of government
1 postal workers, armed forces, public school teachers, etc
b) power
(i) refers to government’s authority and ability to get things done
1 legislative power
 create laws
2 executive power
 enforce and administer the laws
3 judicial power
 interpret laws and settle disputes
c) policies
(i) any decision made by government to carry out a goal
1 can be a law, program, or simply actions they take
 taxes, defense, environmental protection, health care, etc
II) Characteristics of a State
A) a state is a political unit with the power to create and enforce laws over a group of people
in a clearly defined territory
a) does not refer to any of the 50 states of the United States
b) most people call this a country or nation instead
B) all states have 4 characteristics
a) population
(i) a state must have a population of people
1 the number of people does not determine if a place is a state
b) territory
(i) states must have clearly defined and recognized borders
1 border disputes have caused numerous wars over the years
2 today, most people look to the United Nations to determine if an area has a
defined territory that would make it a state
c) government
(i) a state must have some form of political organization
1 meaning a group (or even just 1 person) makes laws and enforces them within
their territory
d) sovereignty
(i) states must have the power to act within its territory and control its external affairs
1 this is why the 50 states of the US are not this idea of a state, because they are
subject to the laws of the overall United States
(ii) most states have limits on their powers over the people
1 this is usually outlined in a constitution (written plan of government)
III) Functions of Government
A) Ensure National Security
a) one of the most basic purposes of government is to guard its territory and people
against external threats
(i) much of most countries’ budgets are focused on defense
(ii) the United States spends more on defense than the next 27 countries combined
b) national security also means preventing attacks by maintaining good relations with
other countries
(i) the US has established embassies around the world
B) Maintain Order
a) government is expected to pass just laws and enforce them
(i) laws must clearly line out unacceptable behavior and the consequences
b) societies differ on their judgment of right or wrong behavior
(i) everyone agrees murder is wrong, but bribery in the US is illegal, but expected in
countries like Nigeria
1 in the US, it is still legal to give gifts and donate to a candidate’s election, but
not give them money directly
c) states must be able to enforce the laws they pass
(i) police identify wrongdoers, courts determine their guilt or innocence and assign
punishment (jail, prison, or fine)
C) Resolve Conflict
a) closely tied to maintaining order
b) some governments use intimidation or force to keep their people in line
c) most rely on the judicial system or politics to peacefully resolve conflict
(i) politics refers to the process of government making and carrying out decisions
1 often people don’t agree, so (hopefully) they attempt to find a compromise
 might openly debate issues
 issues may have outside groups trying to influence decisions
(ii) if people feel wronged by a decision, they can go to court to attempt to fix the
issue
1 this is what it is to sue someone
D) Provide Services
a) services can differ country to country
(i) in the US, people expect the roads and bridges to work, to be able to go to parks,
to get their mail, and have an education
1 recently, many people began expecting things like government health care
(free in places like Canada, France, Germany, etc)
(ii) in the US, utilities like water, roads, etc are for everyone’s use, called public
goods
E) Provide for the Public Good
a) this one is highly complex- most people can’t agree on what the “public good” is
(i) some believe the government should focus on the rights and comfort of the
majority of people
(ii) others believe government should help businesses, who in turn help the people by
employing them
(iii) If the city needed to expand a road to help lessen traffic, are they allowed
to clear away someone’s house?
b) time is a factor
(i) in the early 1900s, there was little regulation in business, especially food
1 after finding out that rat parts, human fingers, and other nasty things were in
the meat supply, Theodore Roosevelt started the FDA to inspect the food
 at the time, people thought he was overreaching the power of government,
but now it is simply expected that your food be free of human bits
c) who the ‘public’ is has changed
(i) before the Civil War and the 13th Amendment, black slaves were not considered
people in the government’s eyes
(ii) women didn’t gain the vote until 1920, even though they were citizens
(iii) Today, a person born here is automatically a citizen of the US- but what if
their parents’ came here illegally?
IV) Theories of Rule
A) Divine Right
a) rulers must be seen as “legitimate” rulers (accepted by the majority of people)
b) in ancient China, the Inca Empire, Japan, and parts of Europe around the 1600s,
leaders claimed they were given the right to rule by God (or gods)
(i) this is called the Divine Right of Kings
1 to disagree with the king was to disagree with God
 this was very effective until the French Revolution, when the people
beheaded King Louis XVI
B) Natural Law and Natural Rights
a) one of the more popular ideas of the 1700s was the belief that people had rights
simply because they were human beings
(i) this idea led to the people demanding their natural rights be respected by their
leaders (kings)
1 if a king refused, the people had the right to rebel
 this led to the American and French Revolutions
C) The Social Contract
a) after the belief in Natural Law and Natural Rights became popular, theories began
that said people give up some rights to live in a safe society (Hobbes)
(i) they gave up the right to kill one another, or steal, etc by allowing government to
exist to outlaw these things and punish those that break laws
1 without giving up some rights to government, people would constantly be
fighting each other for every little thing
b) John Locke agreed with Hobbes in some ways, but said government should only be
around to protect life, liberty, and property
(i) Thomas Jefferson stole this idea in the Declaration of Independence, but said
pursuit of happiness instead of property
(ii) Locke demanded that government must have limits set by the people to ensure the
rights of the people were protected
1 Locke (and Rousseau) said government should be subject to the people
2- Forms of Government

I) The Classic Forms


A) Autocracies
a) Monarchy
(i) headed by one person, such as a king or queen
1 inherit their position by birth into royal family
(ii) most classic form is absolute monarchy, where they have unlimited power in all
things
1 Medieval Britain, France, Spain
2 today Saudi Arabia, Jordan
(iii) today, most monarchies are constitutional monarchies, where kings and
queens are ceremonial and have no real power
1 Great Britain, Japan, Spain
b) Dictatorship
(i) one person or a small group holds absolute power over government
1 usually secular (rule without any religion), but some can be theocracies (rule
through religion)
(ii) usually take power by violently overthrowing previous government
(iii) use force (violent police, army, etc) to keep control
1 Venezuela, North Korea
(iv)many like to say they follow the will of the people, or are democratic
1 this is just another form of control
(v) the worst dictatorships become totalitarian
1 they take control of every part of society
 government, the economy, people’s personal beliefs and actions
 Nazi Germany (Hitler), Soviet Union (Stalin), China (Mao Zedong),
North Korea (Kim Jong Il (and Un))
(vi)when dictatorships are led by small groups, that’s an oligarchy
1 China today
B) Democracies
a) Direct Democracy
(i) means citizens gather to make decisions and vote on everything
(ii) only used in ancient Athens
1 not very useful for large populations, since everyone is involved
b) Republic
(i) indirect democracy, where people represent others and make decisions for larger
populations
(ii) ancient Rome created this
(iii) the US is technically a Republic, since we elect our representatives to go
make decisions about government for us
1 some small towns still use direct democracy to make local decisions
II) Organizing National Power
A) Unitary Systems
a) most states have a unitary government- all authority is at the national level
(i) Japan, Great Britain, France, North Korea, etc
b) some allow local regions to make certain decisions, but final say always rests at the
very top
B) Federal Systems
a) splits power between the national (federal) and local levels
(i) invented by the US- splits power between national and state levels
1 both can create their own laws, have different responsibilities, and have
separate elections
(ii) other countries with federal systems are Canada, India, Germany, etc
C) Confederate Systems
a) independent states come together to form a central government, but the states retain
their overall power
(i) generally, the central government only handles things like defense and trade
agreements
b) the US’s earliest form of government was a Confederation, but the system quickly fell
apart and had to be replaced
c) rarest form of government today
(i) United Arab Emirates and the European Union are the only ones today
III) Presidents and Parliaments
A) Presidential Systems
a) most of these are designed off of the US’s system
b) presidents are elected by the people for a predetermined period of time
c) acts as the primary diplomat, head of armed forces, sets foreign policy, appoints
people to head important roles in government, and signs or rejects new laws
d) balanced out by a legislature (Congress)
(i) can override veto (rejection of new law), declare war (president in charge of
forces, but can’t declare war), approve or disapprove of treaties, etc
(ii) Congress also relies on President to enforce the laws they pass
e) nature of balance between president and Congress can lead to gridlock
B) Parliamentary Systems
a) most modeled off of Great Britain’s system
b) combines legislative and executive powers
c) people elect legislature (Parliament), who selects Prime Minister
(i) PM is leader of the majority party in control of Parliament
1 if PM loses support of the party or the party loses the majority, he/she must
resign their post immediately along with everyone they appointed to run the
government
(ii) some don’t like that they don’t directly elect the PM
(iii) others don’t like that the PM can’t go against Parliament, because if they
do they can get kicked out of office very easily
3- Democracy in the United States

I) Ideals of American Democracy


A) Liberty
a) the Founders wanted people to be able to act and think as they choose, so long as
those choices didn’t harm anyone else (or infringe on someone else’s liberty)
(i) the earliest ideas of liberty meant freedom from government control
(ii) liberty also applies to a person’s freedom to do certain things
1 free to vote, free to get a lawyer if needed, free to have equal rights and
protection under the law
 these freedoms have not always applied to everyone
 in some areas, government intervention is meant to protect the rights of
citizens
 ex: handicap access
B) Equality
a) people expect to be treated fairly under the law and have equal opportunities
(i) includes political, social, and economic aspects of life
1 Is this the case, though? Is it possible that some people are treated differently
based on race, sexual orientation, or handicap?
C) Self-Government
a) ordinary people can participate in decisions as political equals and rule themselves
(i) this means we developed a system in which the people are in control
1 Are we truly in control?
II) Principles of American Democracy
A) Worth of the Individual
a) we place a high value on individual freedom, personal responsibility, self-reliance and
individual achievement
(i) this stems from the belief that people, if allowed to pursue their own path, can
reach their highest potential
1 Is this the case as you see it?
B) Rule of Law
a) the US was once described as “a government of laws, not of men”
(i) this means the government was put in place with limits, and these limits cannot be
exceeded by whoever happens to hold office at the time
1 if that were the case, every president we’ve had could have changed the
government to fit his views, rather than keep to the original ideas
C) Majority Rule, Minority Rights
a) in a democracy, whoever holds the majority holds the most power
(i) the Founding Fathers feared this, as it could lead to some people not having
liberty
1 for this reason, they put certain rules to protect individual rights
 freedom of speech, the press, religion, etc
2 they also created the Supreme Court to serve lifetime appointments to keep
any one group from ruling over another
 these groups are political groups- don’t forget that the Founding Fathers
still kept slavery and that women couldn’t vote
b) in the US, there is a strong belief in balancing majority rule with protecting minority
rights
(i) again, this is political groups, not minorities like Hispanic people or black people
1 although minority race groups might also have minority political opinions
(ii) minority opinions might be views that are very unpopular with others
1 part of freedom of speech means people can spew hate (like the KKK) and not
be arrested
 that said, private business have the right not to employ people with those
views
D) Compromise
a) the design of our government requires that compromises be made in order to get
anything done
(i) this has been happening less and less in recent years
E) Citizen Participation
a) citizens must be involved for our process to work correctly
(i) at the very least, citizens must remain informed so they can vote properly, or run
for office if they choose
(ii) people may also become informed so they can debate issues, hold officials
accountable for their actions, join the military or volunteer for social service, and
join political parties
(iii) in some cases, informed citizens may choose to protest a wrong
1 this must be done in a peaceful, respectful manner, or illegal riots begin
III) Free Enterprise
A) this refers to the economic freedom in the US
a) government has little say in the type of business you have or how it is run
b) this was especially true until the early 1900s to about the 1930s
(i) during the Great Depression, government stepped in when massive numbers of
people were out of work and starving
1 today, government has set a maximum number of work hours a person can
have without compensation, a minimum wage they must be paid, and has
certain protections for workers (sick leave, protection for injuries, etc)
2 government has also set protections for consumers (those buying goods and
services) in case businesses try to cheat them