We the people 5 th edition by benjamin ginsberg theodore j lowi and margaret weir
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We the People 5 th edition by Benjamin Ginsberg, Theodore J. Lowi and Margaret Weir Chapter 1. American Political Culture Trust in Government The Puzzle  Americans have paradoxical views of government:

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We the people 5 th edition by benjamin ginsberg theodore j lowi and margaret weir l.jpg

We the People 5th editionby Benjamin Ginsberg, Theodore J. Lowi and Margaret Weir

Chapter 1. American Political Culture

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Trust in Government

The Puzzle Americans have paradoxical views of government:

  • Since the American Revolution and Founding, Americans have been reluctant to embrace or empower “big government.”

  • Americans nevertheless appreciate the things that government does for them, particularly in times of crisis.

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Government Trust: Neither Left Nor Right

Liberals are more apt to trust the government to promote the public good in the area of social programs and government regulation of business …

… but are more circumspect about expanding government power in the areas of defense, police powers, and social regulation.

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Government Trust: Neither Left Nor Right

Conservatives are more likely to advocate expanding the government in the areas of defense, police powers, and social regulation …

… but are loathe to expand government’s role in promoting social welfare spending and government regulation.

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Decline in Trust

The Decline in Trust in Government


  • Americans’ trust in government declined throughout the second half of the 20th century.

  • At the beginning of the 21st century, after September 11, 2001, levels of public trust in government seem to have rebounded.

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The Decline in Political Efficacy

Perhaps part of the reason that Americans trust government less is that their sense of political efficacy has declined.

Americans increasingly feel that government doesn’t adequately represent their interests.

political efficacy

defined: the belief that citizens can affect what government does

Political Efficacy

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  • What do you trust the government to do well?

  • Do you think the government represents your interests well?

  • Is it our duty to trust the government or is it the obligation of politicians to earn our trust?

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defined: informed and active membership in a political community

Are American Citizens Knowledgeable?

1. Knowledge of government.

Do you know the “rules of the game” in American politics?

2. Knowledge of politics.

Do you know the “stakes” of political conflicts?

3. Knowledge of democratic principles.

Do you know how a democracy is supposed to work?

Citizenship and Government

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Americans tend to be poorly informed about politics and government.

Do you think there might be a connection between declines in trust and efficacy, on the one hand, and the fact that Americans are poorly informed about politics, on the other hand?

Fact or Fiction?

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Government: Forms and Limits government.


defined: the institutions and procedures through which a territory and its people are ruled.

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Types of Government government.

Types of Government: Inclusiveness

Governments can be categorized in ascending levels of inclusiveness

  • Elitism vs. Pluralism


Low Inclusiveness High Inclusiveness

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Types of Government government.

Autocracies: governments controlled by one person – a king, a queen, or dictator.


Oligarchies: governments in which a small group – landowners, military officers, or wealth merchants – control most of the government decisions.


Democracies: governments in which citizens play a significant part in the governmental process.


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Limitations on Government government.

Types of Government: Recognition of Limits

Governments can also be categorized in descending order of the limits they recognize on their own authority.

Few Limits Broad Limits


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Forms of Government government.

Totalitarian governments: governments that recognize little or no limits on their authority and those that seek to absorb or eliminate potential challengers to their authority.

Authoritarian governments: governments that recognize no formal limits on their authority but are, often reluctantly, constrained by the power of other social institutions.

Constitutional governments: governments that recognize and often codify effective limits on their authority.

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American Political Culture government.

Consensus Values in American Politics

  • Liberty

  • Equality

  • Democracy

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Limited Government government.

Liberty: Historically, Americans have valued both personal freedom and economic freedom.

  • The concept of limited government is key to Americans’ conception of liberty.

  • Given its roots in the theories of John Locke, American liberty has a strong economic component with a broad American consensus in favor of free market capitalism.

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Equality government.

Equality: Americans have a long-standing commitment to the “self-evident” ideal that “all men are created equal.”

This translates to a commitment to equal opportunity (though not results) in the economic sphere and political equality like the concept of “one person, one vote.”

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Democratic Principles government.

Democracy: Americans’ commitment to democracy is marked by three principles to which most citizens adhere:

  • popular sovereignty

  • majority rule

  • minority rights

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WHAT DO YOU THINK? government.

  • How well does America live up to its ideals of liberty, equality, and democracy?

  • At the beginning of the 21st century, what are the greatest threats to these ideals?

  • To what extent are these broadly shared political values accomplished facts? To what extent are they ideals for which we must continually strive?

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Student Website government.

  • http://www.wwnorton.com/wtp5e

    Study smarter with chapter reviews, quizzes, vocabulary flashcards, Interactive Politics simulations and You Decide critical thinking exercises.