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Constitutional Underpinnings. What is politics?. Word Association. “ It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.” Ronald Reagan

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word association
Word Association

“It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”

Ronald Reagan

  • What words come to mind when you hear the word “politics”?
  • Does the word have a more positive or negative connotation?
  • Machiavelli’s name is synonymous with tough and dirty politics
  • Author of The Prince. One of history’s first political scientists.
machiavelli quotes
Machiavelli Quotes
  • “The ends justify the means.”
  • “It is better to be feared than loved.”
  • “By no means can a prudent ruler keep his word. Because all men are bad and do not keep promises to you, you likewise do not have to keep your promises to them.”
can we be hopeful about politics
Can we be hopeful about politics?

Yes We Can

“straight talk” campaign

a neutral view of politics
A neutral view of politics

Harold D. Lasswell

  • Who gets what, when, and how. (and where)
  • All of us are political, we’re just not used to calling it that. You don’t have to take a class to get politics. Aristotle was correct when he wrote, “Man is by nature a political animal.”
enlightened ideas
Enlightened Ideas
  • Reason
    • Absence of intolerance, bigotry & superstition
  • Natural Laws
    • Supersede man-made law
  • Progress
    • Laws would improve society, social progress
  • Liberty
    • Intellectual freedom a “natural right”, not restricted by rulers
  • Toleration
    • Advocated full religious tolerance
social contract theory
Social Contract Theory
  • “The only valid government is one based on the consent of the governed.” - Locke
  • Rulers and citizens enter into an agreement, or a social contract
  • Government by the people, masses
locke s influence on the us
Locke’s influence on the US
  • “A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another… - John Locke, of Civil Government
  • “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal.” - Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence
other influences
Other Influences
  • Montesquieu
    • in his Spirit of the Laws, he concluded that an ideal government would separate power between the legislative, executive and judicial branches so the no part of government could become too powerful
  • Rousseau
    • In his Social Contract, he argued that sovereign power lies in the community, not the ruler
    • If a ruler fails to carry out the will of the people, the people should remove the ruler
political power
Political Power
  • Power – ability of one person to cause another person to act in accordance
  • Authority – right to use power
  • Legitimacy – what makes the law or leader a source of “right”
what makes a democracy
What makes a Democracy?

Principles necessary for a democracy to exist.

  • Universal suffrage (everyone vote)
  • Political Equality (all votes counted equally)
  • Majority Rule
  • Government responds to public opinion
can uneducated poor people be trusted
Can uneducated/poor people be trusted?
  • Direct Democracy – citizens create/vote on laws
  • Problems

1. Impractical for reasons of time, expertise

      • How do you get 300 million people to vote multiple times per day on issues they no nothing about?

2. Masses of people make unwise decisions based on emotions (Hitler was elected)

  • “The masses are turbulent and changing and seldom judge or determine right.” -Alexander Hamilton
representative democracy republic
Representative Democracy (Republic)
  • Citizens elect representatives
  • Gov’t MEDIATES popular views
    • “Will of the people” ≠ “Common interest”
    • EX. Lower gas prices, minority rights
  • Reps are educated on issues at hand
  • Prevents fast, sweeping change
  • Minority rights more likely to be protected
theories explaining how democracies actually function
Theories explaining how democracies ACTUALLY function

2. Pluralist Theory

= groups compete and compromise with each other to get the gov’t to do what they want

  • Majoritarian Theory
  • = leaders are forced to follow the wishes of the people because majority rules
  • Hyperpluralist Theory
  • = groups are so strong and hold such divergent views that in trying please all – gov’t is weakened and nothing gets done

4. BureaucracraticTheory

= (Max Weber) appointed officials dominate the gov’t through unelected jobs

5. Elite Theory

= groups or people who possess the most more power (money or influence) dominate gov’t

democracy theory test
Democracy Theory Test

What theory is supported by the fact that…

  • The US holds mainly elections where the person who receives the most votes wins.
  • Most US representatives are upper class people.
  • The President appoints hundreds of people for gov’t jobs or judgeships, all have special powers.
  • Interest groups spend millions of dollars toward campaigns of favored candidates.
  • Gov’t can call for referendums, or votes by the people to pass or strike down potential laws.
  • The candidate who raises the most money for an election almost always wins.
  • Modern society consists of many groups (ex. Economic, religious, cultural, ethnic.) that compete with each other to achieve goals
  • Groups that influence gov’t, work hard, and have largest membership get what they want
  • Even if the average citizen does not keep up with politics, their interests will be protected by their group.
  • Groups must COMPROMISE to achieve goals
arguments for and against the pluralist view
Arguments for and against the Pluralist view
  • Relatively low numbers of people join interest groups.
  • Poor citizens have less opportunity to join interest groups or contribute to them.
  • One can’t assume that group decisions are always in the best interest of the nation.



  • There is no unified majority in the US that always acts together.
  • Gov’t leaders must please groups to gain votes and money to be reelected.
  • Groups must compete for gov’t services and favorable laws.
elite theory
Elite Theory
  • Control the economic system = control the political system.
  • Politicians require massive funding to win elections, and rely on corporations to supply them.
a reminder
A Reminder…
  • These are only theories. They are people’s perception of our democracy and the way it functions.
  • Which theory is correct???
    • Pluralist – most popular today
    • Majoritarian – popular pre-1950’s
    • Elite – rising since the 80’s (Michael Moore)
    • Hyper-Pluralist – gov’ttries to please all groups so nothing gets done