The Study of American Government
The authors ask "Who Governs?" and "To What End?."
- Who governs is important because we feel their decisions will impact us. Book claims that "many of these opinions [on who should rule]" must be wrong" --- supposedly because they are in conflict. Interesting. . .
- To what end is important because it affects the degree to which government impacts our lives. On a microscale, government does very little in day-to-day, but in the larger picture (i.e. economic status) it does much more. However, there are exceptions (i.e. racisim in early US).
They are different questions because
- You cannot predict how or to what end the government will function merely by who is elected (otherwise, everything would be for the WASP male).
Power, authority, legitimacy, etc.
- Power: The ability of one person to get a second person to act in accordance with the first's intentions
- Authority: the right to use power. Formal authority = right to exercise power is rested in government office
- Formal Authority: official declaration of authority.
- Legitimacy: what makes a law or constitution right -- legitimate authority. Democracies breed legitimacy. Viewed as being proper, lawful, and entitled to obedience.
- Recalcitrant -- resisting authority (big time!)
Sources of Power, from Galbraith's The Anatomy of Power
- Personality: certain individuals are so charismatic that we feel compelled to act with their intentions. I.e. public orator motivating us to go out and join their cause or campaign
- Property: I have something, therefor I can use it to sway you. I.e. "I'll give you the stick if you do what I say." Does "I'll take what you own " fall into this category?
- Organization. I am with the government, an organization that you recognize as an authority, therefore I have power. Affiliation with an organization with power gives an individual power.
- Force: DO what I say, or I'll beat you with the stick.
- Knowledge: proprietary knowledge gives me the ability to predict, know things that you donít, hence I can use those to my advantage.
- Democracy defintions:
- Government simply serves true interests of the people, i.e. democratic centralism, the argument by soviet leaders that the decisions made by communist party actually were in best interest of people.
- Direct democracy. Government is democratic if part or all of citizens take part in and hold office. "Direct democracy".
- Representative Democracy. Schumpeter: "The democratic method is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people's vote"
- Feasibility of direct vs. representative democracies
- Direct doesn't work because 1. People can't be well-educated enough, and 2. People are easily manipulated and passionate
- Elite -- identifiable group of individuals who posses a disproportionate amount of a resource, i.e. political power
- Marxists: government is merely a reflection of underlying economic forces, esp. with who owns the means of production. Capitalists vs. Workers
- Nongovernmental elite: argued by Mills in The Power Elite. Nongovernmental elite makes most of the decisions but is not necessarily corporate leaders. Basics are simple: government is controlled by a few, with vested interests.
- Bureaucrats: power rests in appointed officials of massive government, with compartmentalized specialization.
- Pluralist : no single elite has a monopoly on all resources necessary to gain power. Resources and legitimate power outlets are so widly scattered that one group cannot gain power.
- Political change
- Formative event
- Normal activities showing a parttern
- Tech change
1998-1999 AP American Government Notes
copyright Eric Jonas, 1999.
notes have been taken from American Government, 7th edition, by Wilson
and DiIulio, and from in-class lecture by Mr. Greg Sandmeyer at Timberline High