1. 1 Trace the origins of American government What is a democracy? How does a democracy differ from other forms of government in both practical and theoretical terms? What requirements must be met for a government to be called a democracy? Which of the democratic ideals do you foresee as not being achieved in Iraq, and why? Will Iraq still be considered a democracy without this ideal? From the other forms of government mentioned in this chapter, argue for a better form of government for Iraq than a democracy. 1. 2 Show how European political thought provided the theoretical foundations of American government.
1 Can socialism coexist with democracy? Is extensive economic freedom essential to democracy? Can the unequal economic outcomes of capitalism be considered “undemocratic”? In his 1651 Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes observed that without government, life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. ” Justify his argument. With this justification, justify the existence of government as it presently operates in the United States today. What demographic and socioeconomic factors do you think are related to democracy? Wealth? Education? A homogeneous population?
Can you find countries that don’t meet your expectations? Does democracy require equality of income and wealth? Does majority rule undermine freedom and threaten individual rights? What was James Madison’s view, and what is your reaction? 1. 3 Describe American political culture, and identify the basic tenets of American democracy 1 Discuss the theories of elitism and pluralism as explanations of how American government works. Harold Lasswell’s book, Politics: Who Gets What, When, and How, can be seen as associated with the often-made statement “It’s not what you know, but who you know.
” How do the two different statements relate to each other, as well as to present-day political realities? Americans often possess a healthy cynicism of government, whether large or small. Identify the reasons for such beliefs and how government should attempt to address these. Can a few elite decision makers control all important decisions made in the United States today? Some leaders are made by climbing the “ladder of success” rather than being born into power classes. How does this approach compare to “elitism” versus the approach defined as “pluralism”? How does democracy in America compare to democracy in other parts of the world?
What are the most important sources of stability in American government? What are the most important forces for change in American government? Suppose the United States passed a constitutional amendment requiring all eligible citizens to vote, what would be the advantages and disadvantages of this measure? Do you agree with the statement, “Equality, individualism, and openness are the crucial values of American politics in the twenty-first century”? Although there is widespread support for the concepts of freedom and liberty in America, there have been many intrusions into basic rights in American history.
Can you explain why we find such discrepancies in an area where we also find almost complete public support for the general principle? 1. 4 Explain the functions of American government 1 What are some of the goals of terrorist acts? How can terrorism affect the paradox of democracy? How can/should democracies respond? Must security come at the price of liberties? How can democracies, particularly the United States, deal with new restrictions imposed as a result of terrorist acts/threats? Identify the roles of government and the concept of “public goods.
” Are there any other institutions, other than government, which might be charged with performing the roles of government? Is such a consideration realistic? What can individual American citizens do to influence the actions and policies of their government? Name some ways in which government policies influences your normal work/school day. Study the statements of President George Bush on the need to encourage the spread of democracy in the Middle East. Is this a good goal for the United States? Is it a practical goal? 1. 5 Analyze the changing characteristics of the American public.
1 Define and discuss politics in the business setting, the health-care setting, and the educational institution setting. What are the similarities and differences between politics in government and in the identified settings? Discuss the argument that most of American life is organized in anti-democratic fashion. In the family, the school, the factory, the office, and the church, decisions are made by the powerful, without much concern for majority opinion. Discuss ways whereby more Americans would be more likely to participate in U. S. political life.
Use the beginning of the twenty-first century to stimulate your thinking about how should we be governed. What are the strengths of our democracy in the new millennium? Our weaknesses? Why? And what should we do about them? Today’s Americans often question the “American Dream. ” What is the American Dream and how could you go about proving that the Dream is still alive or that the Dream is dying? What types of evidence would you need and where might you find it? Discuss the idea that if more citizens could attend college, then democracy would be strengthened in America.
Is this assumption true or not and why? Given the remarkable diversity in America, how is the country able to function as smoothly as it does? Does this diversity threaten to make the country less governable now than in the past? 1. 6 Assess the role of political ideology in shaping American politics 1 Think about the role and size of government as central to contemporary American politics. Is the scope of government too broad, too narrow, or just about right? Discuss, using contemporary examples, what is meant by government being “too big.
” Do you disagree with what “too big” is? Why? Why don’t Americans divide themselves into social classes? Why hasn’t the Communist Party caught on in America? What are both the weaknesses and strengths of “direct democracy”? Assume that millions of American televisions could be hooked up to a centralized computer system that in turn could register instantaneously the public’s views on issues (“yes” or “no” responses). Would this be a plus or minus for American democracy? 1. 7 Characterize changes in Americans’ attitudes toward and expectations of government.
1 Periodically, civil disobedience has been used to reform government processes, procedures, and even law. In the light of often-identified needs of society, what subjects today appear to justify civil disobedience? Today, large proportions of Americans believe that most or all politicians are corrupt, that government serves the interest of the few, and that government is dominated by the wealthy and powerful. Evaluate these statements. Discuss whether or not the tragic events of September 11, 2001 changed the increasingly detached behavior of Americans.
Do you feel the events of September 11, 2001 changed the way Americans view immigrants and/or foreign visitors/tourists? Should English be the official language of the United States, and should all governmental business be conducted in English? Why, or why not? Discuss what could be done, either by the media or by politicians themselves, to refurbish the image of elected officials today vis-a-vis the public. How can the idea of politics as “an honorable profession” be inculcated, perhaps even in contemporary American youth?
Courtney from Study Moose