September 02, 2005

Am. Gov't, Week One - Ch. One

Week One, Chapter One, Edwards Brief Eighth Edition
(Note – Take notes. Exam and assignments will come directly from what we talk about. If I say it, or it a class member brings it up, it’s fair game for the exam.
  1. What does Government invoke to you? Is Government different than politics? And if so, what is the difference?

  2. Which comes first, then – Government or Politics? Can you even separate the two?

Your text calls politics and governing, the question of “who gets what” – that is simple, and it is true. We will come to see that governing is much more complex – after all, government, in our system, reflects people. Regardless of any cynicism, our government is designed, to “reflect the preferences of the people”. This is how your book defines “Democracy”.

To the question of politics, and the “who gets what” description of the system, an Italian politician wrote, in 1516, about the political world. Niccolo Macchiavelli suggested that the central tenet of man is, ‘the desire to acquire’. Whether we are so simple, who would know. But our political system will be viewed through those eyes as we ‘break the ice’ in this course.


Your text starts by complaining about Youth Participation. I want you to take that to heart. The 2004 or 2008 elections may be your first. As we get further along, ask yourself what led you to vote, or not vote on election day. Do you agree with the book’s critique of your generation?

  1. Governing and politics is not easy

  2. “You can’t always get what you want”

But, “Hate it or love it, it’s the system we’ve got”.

This very basic description – “who gets what” – is common to every political system that has ever been. From dictatorship to Democracy, this is precisely the first duty. Without a system in place to answer this question, the leader is left with nothing to lead.

On our first lesson, let’s ask a few questions – what do you think of this American Democracy? Can anyone tell me what “federalism” means? How is it that there are certain “state” laws, and certain “federal” laws? What happens when these laws conflict with each other (clue – feds. win. Anyone want to tell me how come that is so?).
Everyone in Group A – give me one or two ways your lives, or the lives of someone you care about is affected by government (clue – student loan – pell grant – JTPA –anyone remember Dan Quayle!?).
Our point to remember, is that when we consider government and governing, the issues we address, we address, because someone decided that we should. Perhaps it is the Mayor who wanted to put coin meters in downtown Waterloo, or it is the President. It may be, that your first example of how you are affected by government is a result of your friends and family’s service in the Iowa National Guard.
This book is to examine, how government should work, and it tacitly suggests, that the government doesn’t work the way it should (which is true), and that government works exactly as it should (which is equally true) – you see the contradictions!
So to begin with, what does government do? Very nuts and bolts. Go to pg 10 and head down the list.
What does the government do?
  1. Defense

  2. Public Service

  3. Preserve Order

  4. “Socialize the Young” – (this is an odd phrase for your authors to use).

  5. Collect Taxes

Most people can agree on most items of that list, regardless of political ideology. So this raises another central question of politics – the allocation question.
As we’ve said, government is more than simply distribution of money, but in a great way, these are all questions of allocation of scarce resources. So tell me, the entire class, where should government fit in? What do you think? What do you believe the Republicans and Democrats would say? Do we all agree that this above list is what the government should do? Is there anything we should add to this list?
When you, an interest group, a political party, seeks to shape what those in government do, you are attempting to shift the “policy agenda” of the political body you are working with. Turn to p 12 and focus briefly on these terms - “policy agenda” – “policymaking institutions” – these terms are in plain English – people who make policy are influenced by those who…seek to influence policy. Tell me – who or what can you think of that wants to shape policy?
Religious Groups
See, these do not have to be organizations, these actors can come about as a result of a specific issue and then disband (such as the groups –opposed- to the Health Care legis in 1993, the 2005 social security overhaul). There are also permanent organizations – give me examples.
Turn to page 15 for “Democracy”. The book give several criteria for a legitimate Democracy; read these, and give me examples of where this exists in our government, and where these may be questioned. For instance, do you believe the electoral college fits in w/ the first criterion? Explain why.
Moving onto the Three Contemporary Views of American Democracy, you should be ready to discuss the views listed here.
For the 2d class period, Group A is responsible for leading the discussion based upon Chapter One. I will use the book as our template, and each member of the group should be prepared with one or two “Current Events” to have ready – from here on out, every student will be expected to talk about what’s going on in America and the world, and talk about it. Whether it’s your group or not, I will appreciate LOTS of discussion – the less I talk, the better your grades are!!


Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many.

9:47 PM  

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