Canada vs American politics (prizefight vs bullfight, etc.)
What makes American politics interesting?
- Deep and conflicting visions make stakes higher
- Form of gov’t formed after WWII is at a tipping point
- Sustaining welfare state, growth, employment
- USA government spending as % of GDP is less than OECD average (although
increasing – Obama)
- Example of American ‘exceptionalism’
- Welfare State
- Current form of welfare state: Take advantage of dynamism of capitalist
system, while mending inequalities (a bit of both)
- This system is experiencing problems
- American welfare state not easily compared to others
- Crisis of welfare state: unsustainable trajectory of gov’t spending vs. tax
- Root of crisis: social security
- Social security began during a time with a young population.
Demographic pattern was assumed to remain unchanged.
- There’s a sense that radical changes must be made
- The system seems to be corrupted
- On Political Science
- Started adopting ‘regular’ scientific techniques in order to become more
effective (attempt to achieve certainty)
- Scientific methods also have their limits
- Human beings have ability to dispute political rule,
definitions of justice/injustice, etc. (Aristotle – humans are, by
- How democratic is the US? (Question that motivates most American
- Ties in with the fundamental question: Who rules? (Less so: Who
- Politics can be explained by the involvement of: Interests, Institutions,
- For this course, the role of institutions is paramount
- Definition of Institution: simply, the rules of the game.
- Separation of powers – in some sense, this creates a butterfly
effect. The separation of powers shapes policy-making process,
role of money in elections, etc. - On Political Culture
- General beliefs held among civilians on the ways in which they should be
- American political culture constituted by conflict (bar fight)
- Three possible sources of political culture:
1. Political Theory
- Not really effective in a real way. Things start to change when
the moderns arrive.
2. Historical Experience
- Dating back to England: the early settlers brought these
English traditions with them
- E.g. evangelical Christians
- On Traditions (that have effected American Political Culture)
- Liberalism (in a Classical sense)
- Emphasizes both the need and limited purposes of government
- Equality (in a formal sense)
- Locke claimed that human beings are equal. He used concept
of state of nature to illustrate this. No person has right to rule
another by nature.
- Natural Rights and Property
- No natural political hierarchy leads to natural rights. Purpose
of government is limited to preservation of life, liberty, and
- The crucial right is that humans have right to acquire
property through labour (Locke).
- The prime purpose is to protect the separate, and unequal,
factors (?) of individuals
- Popular Consent and the Right of Revolution