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Unit_1_notes - Introduction to American Government Benefits...

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Introduction to American Government Benefits of the community : 1. the need for interacting and relating with other people 2. Need for security 3. Specialization of tasks – different members do different tasks. Problems : Humans cannot be relied upon; some are selfish and self interested Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan” is a book about life if everyone were free to do whatever they want Governing Processes : democratic (most difficult form of government to work) Democracy – what is it? Autocracy – government by a single person (Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Josef Stalin) Oligarchy – ruled by small group of people Participatory Democracy – democracy where people are the government, works only in small numbers. Example: the New England town meetings Representative Democracy – electing officials to make decisions for you. Works well for bigger groups; also known as a republic What makes these democracies democratic is the process used to make decisions. There are 6 conditions in order to say that the decision was democratic: 1. Everybody would have to have the opportunity to vote Test of interest (citizenship, residency) Test of competency (age) Test of compliance (law-abiding citizens) 2. Everyone must have an equal vote Not true for presidential election (Electoral College) 3. There must be equal information on what we vote on and how you vote 4. Principal of majority rule Simple majority rule – anything over 50% Super majority rule – majority required is 2/3 or ¾ Plurality vote – largest # of votes wins, but falls short of simple majority 5. Must be opportunity to get everybody’s preferred choice on the ballot 6. Must have the opportunity to reconsider your choice Conditions for the success of democracy Conditions that must be present in a society in order for a democratic government to work: Social Equality – the right of each person to be treated with respect. Economic Equality – enough so basic needs are met; the economic equalities cannot be so severe that a small number of people control most of the economics.
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Alexis de Tocqueville: French aristocrat, came to the U.S. in the 1930s to study U.S. prisons, became so fascinated and decided to just study America. He wrote two volumes about America called “Democracy of America.” He said that “Equality is the leading factor of the U.S.” 1. Most Americans own at least some property – economic equality 2. Rarely encountered uneducated Americans – contributed to economic equality, with the exception of slavery. Year Wealthiest 1% of the population’s economic control 1770 14.6% 1920 42% 1970 22% 1998 42% 3. Political efficiency – extent to which you sense you have the ability to influence the political environment around you Democracies require activeness and participation, that’s why this is important
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