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Lecture Notes Intro:


Not enough texts and PoliSci courses put enough emphasis on framing the conditions within which the policy process (Build, Formulate, Adopt, Implement, and Evaluate) takes place.  The "culture," "demographics," & "economy" are variable - ever changing - but ever present pressures upon government as it carries out the role of politics.  The bulk of this lecture, however, centers around the Policy Process and the big question of "Why Government".

First, one has to understand that political science is a "science" in the looses sense of the word.  Where as physics, chemistry, or math are sciences with absolutes, by contrast, political "science" is based on trends and probabilities.  Therefore, when points are made regarding who supports which party, etc. - the points are being made with a "more likely than not" contingent.  For example: "An individual who is wealthy, white, a business owner (or white-collar worker), older, and well educated, will -more likely than not- identify with the Republican party.

Knowing this, you have to remember not to get caught up on the "what if this" or "what if that," there are always going to be exceptions.  But, if you can come to understand the "tendencies of people," not only will you be able to actively participate in controlling your future, you'll be able to predict what the probable reaction to your actions might be in the eyes of others.

The bottom line tendency of your fellow man (and the reason we have "government" in the first place)- is "self interest."  Now before you say, "But what about. . ." DON'T.  Like I said above, "we're talking 'more likely than not' (in this case 'much more likely than not')." If you remember this - that SELF INTEREST IS THE MOTIVATION - from here on out, the rest of the stuff (voting, interest groups, political parties, federalism, anti-federalism, the Bill of Rights, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera) will most likely fall right into place. 

The second thing you should probably know is that "politics" and "government" are not the same thing but go hand in hand.

GOVERNMENT- Is the institutions and officials that carryout politics on a local, state, or national level.

POLITICS- Is the process of (re)allocating scarce resources. 

In other words, this class [American Systems of Government] will be looking at our American institutions that carry out the process of (re)allocating scarce resources.

For an easier definition of "politics," try remembering it as "Resources are things that are of use - and when they are scarce (not available in infinite amounts to everyone) a third party acting under rules (in our case, the Constitution) is created to decide who gets the resources and who doesn't.  In our capitalistic society these resources generally are represented by money ($ - which is the symbol for resources... not money).  If you're not sure why we need to have someone -a government- to decide "who gets what," remember that all-to-common tendency of people. . . self interest!  And, this self interest creates a problem - because if it's a resource, I WANT IT! and so do you, and so does your neighbor, and their neighbor -ad infinitum. And if it's scarce - we ain't all going to get it.   So, who decides? Me? Is that fair to you?  How about you decide?  Well, not if I can help it.  And, so we'd go round and round - until those who can get, AND KEEP, the resource do so, and those who can't ultimately parish.

In short, we can also define "POLITICS" as"The Process of deciding who gets what."

So, we have a government that professes to represent us and will decide on our behalf "who will get what."  These "governments" vary from dictatorships to oligarchies to republics.  As you may know, our system of government is indeed a republic -a representative democracy- made up of elected officials, chosen by their constituents from a defined district.  And, as we will see it's not a perfect system -but it is the closest thing we got to deciding for ourselves how the resources will be divvied.

Having said this, a good way, then, to describe the way a world of limited resources operates is to look at the school yard tradition -King of the Hill.  This is a great metaphor, as it expresses self interest through the objective of the game, which is:  GET TO THE TOP, and when (or "if") you get there STAY ON TOP.  Which brings us to ideologies (your comprehensive set of beliefs about the role of government).  Depending on where you are, where you want to be, or where you don't want to be on the hill (I call it the "'quality of life' hill") we can forecast what your general ideology should be.  See below:


Ideologies will be discussed at length following Section 4, but the term does come up in the next section.

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Last modified date: 08/19/15
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