American Politics COMPLETE NOTES [Part 15] - I got a 4.0 in..
American Politics COMPLETE NOTES [Part 15] - I got a 4.0 in the course!

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University of Massachusetts - Boston
Political Science

January 27, 2014: What is government? Why do we have government? How do governments achieve these goals? What are the types of governments? What is democracy? I. What is government? One perspective ● Negative perspective ○ “Government, even in it’s best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one” - President Thomas Jefferson ■ One of the fathers of our US government felt negatively toward it ○ “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem” - President Ronald Reagan ■ Presidential campaign worked against government ● Positive Perspective ○ “Government is the enemy until you need a friend” - William Cohen, former US Secretary of Defense and US Senator from Maine ○ “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.” - Representative Barney Frank ● Is government evil? Is it something we should control? Or is it positive? II. What is government? The THREE main characteristics ● Institutional ○ The institutions and procedures through which a territory and its people are ruled ○ Organizational entity ○ Made up of a number of different offices ○ When we think of government, we often think about these offices, such as senators, courts, mayors, etc. ● Individuals ○ The individuals who occupy the offices that regulate the behavior of citizens through the creation, implementation, and enforcement of rules and laws ○ Government can be “personified” because of these individuals in these offices ● Only institution in society that has: Monopoly on the legitimate use of violence ○ Through the consent of the people, the government is widely seen as the only institution that can: ■ Take your property ■ Restrict your movements (jail) ■ Take their lives ● “Mobs” are institutions that try to do these things, but they are not legitimate ● Weak vs. strong government? ○ Afghanistan vs. USA ■ Institutional? ■ Both have offices, legislatures, presidents ■ Individuals? ■ Both have people working in these offices ■ Monopoly on legitimate use of violence? ■ HERE is the difference! ● US has this legitimacy whereas Afghanistan has a competition, not a strong government system I. What is government? ● Working definition: ○ Government is an organization that ■ Consists of a defined institutional structure ■ Is made up of individuals who occupy these structures or offices ■ Is in order to regulate the behavior of citizens ■ And it does so through a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence II. Why government? - Part 1 ● To produce order, reliability, and predictability ● Governments create stability for its citizens ● Thomas Hobbes’ ideas/arguments ○ “When men live without a common power to keep them all in awe...the condition of man is a condition of war of everyone against everyone” ○ Self interest: ■ Engine of human behavior ■ Humans are solely concerned with self preservation and to seek and maximize self gain ○ Overarching power ■ Individuals will do anything to achieve what they want ■ They may rape, pillage, and kill ■ In these societies, life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” ■ We would live in widespread violence, aggression, and constant fear = “State of nature” ○ Governments protect ourselves from ourselves ○ One example Prof. Nteta uses to describe this theory is Black Friday ■ Black Friday shoppers are self interested and there is essentially no one (no overarching power) to stop shoppers from pushing and shoving each other ○ Prof. Nteta also uses “The Walking Dead” TV show as an example of a world in which everyone is acting in a self-interested manner without government ■ “There is no government, no armies, no hospitals, no police” - Walking Dead trailer ■ People must find ways to protect themselves not only from the zombies in the TV show, bu
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