Ap Government Notes Essay

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AP Government Chapters 1 & 2 Lecture Notes Background of the American System of Government The US Constitution Lea Chapter 1 Power – the ability of a person to get another to act in accordance with his wishes. Political power involves this ability within the confines of government – influencing government action and behavior. You do not have to be an elected official or government employee in order to wield political power. Authority – the right to use power – views differ on who has the right to use power. Not all authority is legitimate. Formal authority is derived from gaining elective or appointed political office. Three Meanings of Democracy: 1. Democratic Centralism – where those in power ascertain the “true will and interests” of the people. Found in China, Cuba, and other dictatorships. 2. Participatory Democracy – Aristotelian democracy – “rule of the many” – the idea that all citizens participate in the democratic process. The 4th century b.c. Greeks actually limited participation in many ways. Today’s New England Town Meeting most approximates this ideal. 3. Representative Democracy – power is gained through competitive elections for government offices. There must be true competition (as opposed to fake or rigged elections) for the system to work. This is known as a Republican form of government, and is referred to as such in the US Constitution. The Framers did not believe in direct democracy (participatory) for various reasons – time, expertise, emotions, and a distrust of the abilities of the masses. Still, there are many problems with our representative system, which we will discuss later. Even representative systems can be very different – compare, for example, those of the US, Britain, and Sweden. Power Distribution in a Republican system (in short, it varies): 1. Majoritarian politics – some issues are governed by public sentiment.

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