Chapter 1 notes – Government 1
Understanding American and California Government
Welch, Gruhl, Comer, Rigdon, Gerston and Christensen
Politics: means through which individuals and groups shape government impact on society, competition for the distribution of resources
Political culture: shared body of beliefs and values that shapes perception and attitudes towards politics and government and in turn influences political behavior
Aristotle: Politics is the most noble endeavor a person can engage in because it helps them know themselves and because it forces the individual to relate to others. Through political participation, individuals pursue their own needs and interests while being required to consider the needs of others. It is through political participation that we learn to balance our needs against the needs of society as a whole.
Thing America is composed of/known for:
• Immigration: nation of immigrants, causes political cleavages
o Nationalistic/anti-foreigner views arise during politically troubling times, such as war.
o Easier to divide against immigrants
o Immigrant groups, even if initially persecuted, have gone on to grow and play a role in gov’t.
• Religious diversity
o Earliest settlers came here to escape religious persecution
o With its independence, US disassociated from England’s church (Anglican) and decided that there would be no national religion – not the same as no religion in gov’t
• Economic and demographic diversity
o Worker v. owner is classic American example.
• Political culture
o Significance for America: our political culture doesn’t mean we all agree, it simply means we all agree to abide by election results, discuss things non-violently and embrace conflict between viewpoints as well as cooperation.
o Learning political culture:
Most of the Founders believes that an educated citizen was necessary to the survival of the new republic.
Jefferson said only educated citizens would be able to understand issues, elect virtuous leaders and “sustain the delicate balance between liberty and order in the new public system.”
Mass media helps encourage and disperse the political culture of America
• Core values of America: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
o Individual liberty
Natural rights cannot be overruled by a government, can only be ceded to the government so long as government is functioning in the interests of the people
Bill of Rights is a result of concern that gov’t would trample on individual rights
Not an absolute commitment, rather a contingent one because restrictions on rights can be imposed based on good of the whole (ie no yelling fire in a croweded building)
o Political Equality
One person = one vote
o Popular Sovereignty
The government rules with the consent of the governed (the people)
o Majority Rule
The majority makes the decisions, even if those decisions are unpopular (think Prop. 8 in Caliornia)
Minority go along because they hope to be the majority some day.
o Minority Rights
Protection for natural and constitutional rights of minotiries
The judicial system often provides this
o Economic Rights
Right to own property
No taxation without representation (Boston Tea Party)
In reality, people with more wealth have more influence on government
o Political participation
Must have citizens participate or else the populations’ wishes are not represented
Elect those who make the decisions – a republic