-1Chapter 1 - Politics, Government and Democracy
To govern means to make choices. What roles should government assume? What are the costs and
benefits? Who will be the winners and losers? What norms or values are reaffirmed or threatened when
government makes policy choices?
are pivotal concepts for understanding U.S. politics. All governments
strive to maintain order, and most claim to respect individual freedoms in the process. Some, but not all,
governments aspire to ensure equality. Government decisions to place strong emphasis on one of the values
may result in the shortchanging of another. Stricter law enforcement measures may impinge on individual
Governments have to make hard choices to determine an acceptable balance among these often conflicting
norms. The text employs two models of democratic government,
, to assess the process by which the United States makes these choices. The choices
made by the government have consequences far beyond the border of the United States because of
, the growing interdependence among citizens and nations around the world.
Despite the long-standing debate over how limited or pervasive the role of government should be, most
scholars would identify three basic purposes: (1) to
by preserving life and protecting
property; (2) to provide
such as highways, schools, and national parks; and (3) to
through health and welfare programs and social equality policies. The third purpose is both the
most recent (arising in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s) and the most
The range of political and ideological beliefs about the scope of government authority or control form a
which represents total government control of all aspects of society, to
which places the highest value on freedom and is in opposition to any form of government.
Between these extremes lie
political philosophies that
advocate, in decreasing order, the responsibility of government in economic and political matters.
is placed by some in the socialism category, whereas others see it as an instance of
totalitarianism. The United States, with its emphasis on free enterprise, is clearly a capitalist country. Its
two broad ideological doctrines, liberalism and conservatism, both endorse capitalism but differ on the
extent of government intervention in the economy.
of government arose from the need to maintain order, even at the expense of
yielding individual freedom. The
of government in the twenty-first century arose from
the desire to promote equality—once again at the cost of individual freedom. Evidence of the tradeoffs
among these three values—freedom, order, and equality—recurs throughout the book. The conflicts
between freedom and order are usually obvious, but those between freedom and equality are often more