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Introduction to American Government


Introduction to American Government Power and Government Warm-up Questions Respond to the following questions in writing in the next 10 minutes. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Introduction to American Government

Introduction to American Government
  • Power and Government

Warm-up Questions
  • Respond to the following questions in writing in
    the next 10 minutes. Then discuss them with a
  • __________________________________________________
  • How would you describe who traditionally holds
    power throughout history?
  • Why has this group been the ones to hold power
    for so long?
  • What is the source of power? In other words,
    where does ones power originate?
  • How does one obtain power if they want it?
  • How do you hold/maintain power once obtained?
  • Lord Acton stated in 1887, "Power tends to
    corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    Great men are almost always bad men." Do you
    agree or disagree with this quote? Why or why
  • Make a list of all groups or individuals that
    hold power over you.
  • Make a list of all groups or individuals that you
    power over.

  • "The essence of Government is power and power,
    lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be
    liable to abuse." James Madison
  • What did Mr. Madison mean?

James Madison, Father of the Constitution
What is Power?
  • Power is the ability to influence the behavior of
    others to get the outcomes that one wants.

Sources of Power
  • Coercive Power
  • Reward Power
  • Legitimate or Position Power
  • Expert Power
  • Referent or Personal Power

What is Government?
  • The legitimate exercise of authority in a
  • Authority Power that people recognize as
  • Legitimate Appropriate and lawful.
  • State (A country or nation)
  • A body of people living in a defined territory,
    organized politically, with sovereignty.
  • (the power to make and enforce law without the
    consent of higher authority)
  • Our concept of a state is different today.

Many Government Exercise Three Basic Kinds of
  • Legislative Power The power to make law and
    public policies.
  • Executive Power The power to execute, enforce
    and administer the law
  • Judicial Power The power to interpret the laws,
    determine their meaning and settle disputes.
  • Why do you think our Founding Fathers divided
    this power over three branches instead of just
    ONE, like under the Articles of Confederation?

King James I
King James I - Stuart Family
  • King of England from 16031625
  • Proclaimed the Divine Right of Kings Theory
  • Kings are Chosen by God
  • Born with Power
  • Kings are only accountable to God, not to any
  • Subjects who argue with the King are committing
    blasphemy against God.
  • Implications?

Niccolo Machiavelli
  • (1469 1527)

The Prince
  • Controversial, condemned by the Pope.
  • Focused on how Monarchies should keep power
  • The quote The end justifies the means has been
    used to describe his book.
  • Princes should keep absolute control by any means

Social Contract Theorists Enlightenment Thinkers
  • Thomas Hobbes
  • John Locke
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Baron de Montesquieu

Social Contract Theorists
  • Emerged during the period of Enlightenment.
  • As other scientists were questioning math and
    science, some theorists were questioning
    assumptions about government.

What is a social contract?
An agreement among people defining the rights and
duties of individuals with each other and with
the government.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
  • Hobbes challenged Divine Right Theory
  • Did not challenge Monarchy - Any government is
    better than no government.
  • Why? Must examine the State of Nature Life
    without institutions, a primitive state before

Hobbes and the State of Nature
  • Wrote the Leviathan
  • Pessimistic - Man in the state of nature is
    essentially equal and at war
  • Without government, life would be solitary,
    poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
  • A constant struggle to survive against the evil
    of others

Hobbes and the Social Contract
  • Out of fear, people want to be ruled.
  • People enter into a social contract with the
  • People give up rights and liberties in order to
    control society and to safeguard property.
  • Individual obedience is necessary in order to
    stop the greater evil of an endless state of war.

John Locke
  • English
  • 1632-1704
  • An Essay Concerning
  • Human Understanding
  • Second Treatise
  • of Civil Government

Locke and the State of Nature
  • State of perfect freedom and equality no king has
    the power to void those rights
  • All human beings in their natural state were
    equal and free to pursue life, health, liberty
    and possessions (inalienable rights).
  • In this state, everyone is the judge and jury.
  • Creates problems Govt remedies these problems.
  • Governments allow man to pursue his goals more

Locke and the Social Contract
  • Men enter into a social contract with the
    government to preserve life, liberty and property
    and to assure justice.
  • From this state of nature people would not choose
    an absolute monarchy, they choose a society
    governed by standing laws, with power distributed
    among different groups.
  • If the government acts improperly it breaks the
    contract with the people. Revolution in some
    circumstances is not only a right, it is an

Review the Views on the Social Contract
  • Hobbes the social contract restricts conflict in
    the state of nature by surrendering power and
    instituting justice.
  • Locke the social contract carries man from the
    state of nature to be governed in order to
    preserve liberties and property rights.
  • Now
  • Rousseau the social contract limits the power of
    the state and brings citizens closer to the state
    of nature.

Jean Jacques Rousseau
  • Swiss - French
  • 1712-1778
  • On The Social Contract,
  • 1762

Rousseau and the State of Nature
  • Man is born free, but everywhere he is in
    chains. (Thesis)
  • Natural State is freedom, but people in modern
    states are not free. Why?
  • The only natural society is the family.
  • Man in the state of nature may have been
    solitary, but he was healthy, happy, good, free
    and equal.
  • Problems begin when people form societies.
  • Original tribal societies were alright, but the
    introduction of property created inequality and
  • Cannot return to the natural state so we form
    governments to restore some of our freedoms.

Rousseau and the Social Contract
  • The sovereign exists to safeguard the citizens,
    and the social contract is an agreement among the
  • People renounce their natural rights
  • Rights are redefined and individuals gain civil
    rights as citizens of the community.
  • People give up their personal will for the
    general will.
  • Government is only legitimate through agreement
    and people must periodically revisit the laws,
    and renew their consent.
  • Ideal state is small enough to allow the citizens
    to know one another.
  • The state has legitimate power only if it obeys
    the general will.

Baron de Montesquieu
  • On The Spirit of Laws 1748
  • Admired British system
  • Separation of governmental powers into three
  • the executive, who carries out (executes) the
  • the legislative, who makes the laws,
  • and the judicial, who interprets the laws.
  • Tyranny can be avoided by dividing political
    power among different groups. (Separation of
  • Tyranny can be avoided by keeping watch on the
    other branches of government (checks and
  • These would prevent anyone from gaining a
    monopoly of power.

Forms of Government
  • Geographic Distribution of Power
  • Authoritarian vs. Democratic (Who holds the
  • Methods of Representative Democracy

Three basic forms of government
  • Unitary a centralized government
  • All powers belong to a single central agency
  • Usually due to size of country being small
  • Ex England, Japan, Spain
  • Unitary does not mean dictatorship

  • Confederation alliance of independent states.
  • Ex U.S. under the Articles of Confederation,
    Civil War South, Switzerland, European Union

  • Federal powers are divided between central
    government and regional governments.
  • Ex U.S., Mexico, Canada

Who Holds the Power? Democracy
  • In a democracy, the government is elected by the
    people. Everyone who is eligible to vote has a
    chance to have their say over who runs the
    country. It is distinct from governments
    controlled by a particular social class or group
    (aristocracy oligarchy) or by a single person
    (despotism dictatorship monarchy).
  • A democracy is determined either directly or
    through elected representatives.
  • Examples of Representative Democracies U.S.,
    Russia, Chile, Rwanda, Indonesia
  • Examples of Direct Democracies Greece under
    Pericles, New England town hall meetings,
    Californias ballot proposition system.

Who Holds the Power? Autocracy
  • Government by a single person having unlimited
    power despotism (domination through threat of
    punishment and violence) .

This could be a monarchy, dictator, or a
totalitarian leader.
Who Holds the Power? Oligarchy
  • A government in which a few people such as a
    dominant clan or clique have power.

Examples of oligarchies are South Africa before
apartheid, Athens under aristocratic rule,
ancient Sparta, most tribal governments.
Who Holds the Power? Monarchy
  • A monarchy has a king, queen, emperor or empress.
  • The ruling position can be passed on to the
    rulers heirs.
  • In some traditional monarchies, the monarch has
    absolute power.
  • But a constitutional monarchy, like the UK, also
    has a democratic government that limits the
    monarch's control.
  • Constitutional Monarchy examples Morocco, Laos,
    Bahrain, Jordon, Japan, United Kingdom
  • Absolute Monarchy examples Oman, Saudi Arabia,
    Qatar, Vatican City

Who Holds the Power? Dictatorship
  • A country ruled by a single leader. The leader
    has not been elected and may use force to keep
  • In a military dictatorship, the army is in
  • Examples Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, Myanmar

Who Holds the Power? Anarchy
  • Anarchy is a situation where there is no
    government. This can happen after a civil war in
    a country, when a government has been destroyed
    and rival groups are fighting to take its place.
  • Anarchists are people who believe that government
    is a bad thing in that it stops people organizing
    their own lives.

Who Holds the Power? Republic
  • A republic is a country that has no monarch.
  • The head of the country is usually an elected

Who Holds the Power? Totalitarian
  • This is a country with only one political party.
  • People are forced to do what the government tells
    them and may also be prevented from leaving the
  • Examples Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Castro

Different methods of Representative Democracy
  • Parliamentary Govt
  • Leg Branch (aka parliament) - Voters elect
  • Exec Branch - chosen by the legislature, often a
    member of the legislature
  • Jud Branch - appointed.
  • Presidential Govt
  • Leg Branch - Voters elect
  • Exec Branch voters elect
  • Jud Branch - appointed.