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Andrew Nickell

Mr. Chase
AP Government
September 6, 2010

Chapter 1: The Study of American Government

An Outline

I. What is Political Power?

A. Power
i. The ability of one person to act in accordance with another
person’s intentions
ii. Power is found in all human relationships
B. Authority
i. The right to use power, or the rightful use of power
ii. Formal authority is the right to use power vested in certain
government offices such as the office of the President, Supreme
Court Justice, or senator.
iii. The authority to use power varies from time to time and country to
C. Legitimacy
i. Political authority conferred by law or by a state or national
ii. No exercise of political power by government at any level is
legitimate if it is not in some sense Democratic

II. What is Democracy?

A. Democracy
i. The rule of many
ii. A society is democratic if most or all it’s citizens participates in
either holding office or making policy.
B. Direct or participatory democracy
i. Citizens vote on laws themselves
1. Direct democracy can be viewed as a bad thing, because
the citizen’s judgment can be influenced by the media and
personal passions.
2. It can also be viewed positively because the citizens control
all of the government.
ii. Used first in Greek city-state.
C. Representative democracy
i. A government in which leaders make decisions by winning a
competitive struggle for the popular vote.
ii. Representative democracy is used in the United States of America.
It is also called a form of constitutional republic.
III. Is Representative Democracy Best?
A. For a representative democracy government to work their must be:
i. A opportunity for genuine leadership competition
1. individuals and parties be able to run for office
2. free communication
3. voters perceive that meaningful choices exist
ii. Guidelines for fair leadership campaigns.
B. Framers of the constitution -
i. Thought that representative democracy was best because -
1. less chances of it offices being manipulated
2. help prevent political offices being used for private gain
3. reduce the need for constant polls
ii. Set up government to protect -
1. Civil rights of all people
2. Minorities
3. From concentration placement of power.

IV. How is Power Distributed in a Democracy?

A. Elite
i. Persons who possess a disproportionate share of some valued
resource, like money or power.
ii. There are at least four different schools of thought about political
elites and how power has actually been distributed in America’s
representative democracy: Marxist, power elite, bureaucratic, and
B. Marxist view
i. View that the government is dominated by capitalists.
ii. View the capitalists control the economy, and therefore the
C. Power elite view
i. View that the government is dominated by a few top leaders, most
of who are outside of the government.
ii. These elites enjoy great advantages in wealth, status, or
organizational position.
D. Bureaucratic view
i. View that the government is dominated by appointed officials.
ii. Government works who are virtually invisible to most whom
nonetheless exercise vast power by deciding how to translate
public laws into administrative actions.
E. Pluralist view
i. The belief that competition among all affected interests shaps
public policy.
ii. Pluralists believe that political tools such as money, prestige,
expertise, and access to the mass media are too widely scattered for
a single elite to monopolize on them.
iii. Pluralists acknowledge that big businesses, cozy elites, or career
bureaucrats may dominate on some issues, but not all.

V. Is Democracy driven by Self-Interest?

A. Some actions are independent of self interest, but others aren’t.
i. Dependent on individual’s ideals, morals, and ethics.
ii. A policy may be good or bad regardless of the motive behind it.
B. The belief that people will usually act on the basis of their self-interest,
narrowly defined, is a theory to be tested, not an assumption to be made.
i. Some people act out of purely self interest while others do not.
Most people lay somewhere in between.

VI. What Explains Political Change?

A. Many forces drive political change
i. Economic interests
ii. Powerful elites
iii. Entrenched bureaucrats
iv. Competing pressure groups
v. Morally impassioned individuals
vi. Wars
B. Many historical things have happened in U.S history causing political
i. The Great Depression
ii. The development of the federal government

VII. The Nature of Politics

A. The Importance of Power in Politics
i. Conjures up deals, bribes, power plays, and arm twisting.
ii. Shared understanding, common friendships, communal or
organizational loyalties can shape power.