Principles of Government. 1.1: Government and the State 1.2: Forms of Government 1.3: Basic Concepts of Democracy. The Government and the State. “Government”: the institution through which a society makes and enforces public policy.
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1.1: Government and the State
1.2: Forms of Government
1.3: Basic Concepts of Democracy
“Government”:the institution through which a society makes and enforces public policy.
“Public policy”: anything that a government decides to do. This list is nearly endless (taxation, defense, education, health care, etc.).
“Legislative”: the power to make laws.
In the United States, this power is used by Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate).
“Executive”: the power to enforce/ administer laws.
There are many individuals/groups that make up this branch in the U.S., but the leader of this group is the President.
“Judicial”: the power to interpret law (determine meaning of laws).
This power is used within the court system of the United States. Judges run the courts / the highest court is the Supreme Court.
Legislative = Make Laws
Executive = Enforce Laws
Judicial = Judge (Interpret) Laws
These powers are often outlined by a country’s
“constitution”: body of fundamental laws setting
out the principles, structures, and processes of
The “state” is the dominant political unit in the world. Every state has 4 major characteristics:
A state must have residents in order for it to exist.
*The amount of population does not matter:
San Marinohas a population of 27,000.
China has a population of 1.3 billion.
A state must have land on which its population can live.
* The amount of land does not matter:
San Marinois 24 square miles.
Russia is 6.6 million square miles.
A state must have “sovereignty”: supreme and absolute power within its own territory (it is not subordinate to any other authority).
Example: no other country decides what laws will be passed within the United States. We decide our own laws because we have sovereignty (absolute power within our borders).
A state must have government to maintain order and enforce public policy – without government, there would be chaos.
All 4 of these characteristics: population, territory, sovereignty, and government must be present in order for a “state” to exist.
1. Force Theory: The oldest/strongest member of a group forced all other members under his control in a specific area.
2. Evolutionary Theory: states evolved over time from a single-family unit.
Family Clan Tribe State.
4. Social Contract Theory: people chose to form government in order to have a safer, more productive, society.
*The people agreed to give up there freedoms – they were not forced to do so (John Locke and Thomas Hobbes).
1.Form a More Perfect Union: tie the country and its people together.
2.Establish Justice: reasonable, fair, and impartial laws for everyone.
3. Insure Domestic Tranquility: keeping peace at home.
4. Provide for Common Defense: ensuring the security of the U.S.
5. Promote the General Welfare: provide services that benefit the people.
6. Secure the Blessings of Liberty: ensure freedom for everyone.
Governments can be classified according to three major categories:
1. Who can participate in government.
2. The geographic distribution of power.
3. The relationship between the legislative and executive branches.
A. “Dictatorship”: those who rule are not responsible to the will of the people – the government is not held accountable for its policies. Dictatorships hold absolute power over the people – they usually gain/maintain their power through military force.
A. “Unitary Government”: all powers held by government belong to a single, central agency. Local governments only have powers that the central government chooses to give them. Most governments today are unitary.
In Great Britain, all governmental power is held in Parliament, the central governmental agency.
In the United States, power is divided between the federal government and state governments. These powers are given by the Constitution.
A. “Parliamentary Government”: the executive power is elected by (and thus part of) the legislative power. The legislative and executive branches are one and the same.
1. Worth of Individual: every individual is of value – sometimes individuals are forced to do things they would rather not do for the sake of society as a whole.
2. Equality of All Persons:every individual is entitled to equality of opportunity and equality before the law – no person should be held back for arbitrary reasons like race, gender, religion, etc.
3. Majority Rule, Minority Rights:the majority of people will be right more often than they will be wrong – but majority rule must not exist if minority rights are compromised.
4. Necessity of Compromise: individuals will have opposing views; therefore, we must “compromise”: the process of adjusting competing views and interests.
5. Individual Freedom: freedoms must be free to live as they want – as long as these individual freedoms do not infringe upon the rights of society as a whole. *Complete freedom would be anarchy.
The government exists to serve our wants and best interests.