Comparative Politics Today Notes Chapter 1:
- Politics: it’s about community, institutions, government, etc.
- What is Politics?
• Decisions, choices that are
Public: Not strictly personal in content, affects others, typically made collectively.
Authoritative: Intended to be binding, with claim to legitimacy (general
acceptance of right to govern), can often be backed up by force.
- The Two Faces of Politics:
• Power (Domination)
• Choice (Policy)
• In the Real World, politics is always about power as well as choice.
• You can’t do politics alone. Politics is like a car: it has multiple parts.
• Context: Political decisions always made within a Political System
Citizens, groups, institutions
Citizens, Territory, Property.
Governments: organizations of individuals who have the power to make binding decisions on
behalf of a particular community.
State of Nature: the condition of humankind if no government existed.
Political Culture: this is the public’s expectations toward the political process and their role in
the process. - Providing security and order is a critical role of modern governments. John Locke considered
property rights to be particularly critical to the development of prosperous communities. For
people to want to invest in homes and a future, and for the market to thrive, our rights and
property lines must be protected and the government must promote a rigorous economic
competition. We must always protect our economic, social and political rights.
Public Goods: goods provided by the government to the public, i.e., clean air, national defense,
disease prevention, etc. Everyone must always have access to it, and one person’s major use of it
does not lessen another person’s ability to use it as well.
Externalities: a side effect or consequence of an industrial or commercial activity that affects
other parties without this being reflected in the cost of the goods or services involved, such as the
pollination of surrounding crops by bees kept for honey.
- Many tax and welfare policies redistribute income, although the degree of redistribution is
hotly disputed. It is argued that it should be used to equalize all citizens, while others disagree.
Many people rely on the government to intervene to protect the weak, whether it’s the poor or
children that are being abused. However, government intervention, and the debate concerning its
necessity in certain situations, is wildly disputed.
Anarchism and Libertarianism: two political and philosophical traditions that are critical of the
role of modern governments. But they differ in their main concerns. Libertarians see the greatest
problem of the government as its encroachment on individual freedoms, whereas anarchists are
concerned primarily with the threats that governments pose to social communities.
- The stronger the government becomes, the greater the inequalities of power.
Human Rights: a right justifiably belonging to every human being.
- It’s the violations of these rights around the world that troubled the founding fathers, hence why they created the Constitution in order to avoid such violations in the US.
- Governments can help economics flourish, but they can also distort and restrict a state’s
- Society may also suffer if politicians make decisions that aren’t for the greater good of the
people, but for the good of themselves, such as passing a law because it can help them get
reelected, not because it is for the good of the people.
Rent-seeking: a politician or political group that may use the government to reap benefits out of
government laws or programs unfairly at the public’s expense. This is easy to do in high
government positions, and especially serious in poor societies.
Vested Interests: a personal stake or involvement in an undertaking or state of government
affairs, esp. one with an expectation of financial gain. Vested interests make it difficult to change
government policies or make them more efficient.
Political System: A system by definition has two properties: (1) a set of interdependent parts,
and (2) boundaries toward its environment. A political system is a particular type of social
system that is involved in the making of authoritative public decisions.
- The political systems that we compare in this book are all independent states.
State: a particular type of political system.
Sovereignty: the independent legal authority over a population in a particular territory, based on
the recognized right to self-determination. Sovereignty rests with those who have the ultimate
right to make political decisions. External sovereignty is the right to make binding agreements
with other states. Internal sovereignty is the right to make political decisions having to do with
one’s own citizens.
European Union: an economic and political association of European countries as a unit with internal free trade and common external tariffs.
Nation-States: these are states that consist of individuals who share a common national identity.
These are often a desirable way to organize a political system.
Globalization: states becoming more open to and more dependent on one another. It also means
migration across state boundaries, and citizens of most or all countries have to share in cultures
that have developed elsewhere.
United Nations: formed at the end of WWII in 1945, is a network group of nations around the
world aiming to have peacekeepe