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  1. Chapter 1 American Government and Civic Engagement 1
  2. In the United States, the right to vote is an important feature of the nation’s system of government, and over the years many people have fought and sacrificed to obtain it. Today, many people face challenges in exercising this important means of civic engagement. (credit: modification of work by the National Archives and Records Administration) Figure 1.1
  3. 3 Introduction • American citizens have the opportunity to participate in government at the federal, state, and local level. • Civic engagement—whether through voting, demonstrating, speaking out on important issues, or other means—is vital to a thriving and effective republic.
  4. Defining government and politics 4 • A government is the system by which a society organizes itself and allocates authority in order to accomplish collective goals and provide benefits to that society. • Politics refers to the process of gaining or exercising control within a government by an association of persons with shared goals or objectives for society.
  5. Government and economic systems 5 Certain forms of government are often, though not always, linked to particular economic systems: • Democracy, government by citizens, is often associated with capitalism, an economic system in which the means of production are controlled by individuals who invest in business and industry. • Socialism advocates public or government control, whether directly or through regulation, over the means of production. • Oligarchy is a form of government in which a small class of political and economic elites control the government.
  6. Goods in a capitalist economic system 6 • In the United States, our representative democracy generally adheres to a capitalist economic system. • In a capitalist system, private businesses produce and sell most consumer goods and services, earning a profit on these private goods. • Some goods or services, such as public safety and education, cannot be produced in sufficient quantities or for a profit; the government provides these public goods. • Governments also protect common goods such as water and other natural resources that are used by individuals but must be protected for the benefit of all.
  7. Figure 1.2 A fire department ambulance rushes to the rescue in Chicago. Emergency medical services, fire departments, and police departments are all paid for by government through the tax base, and they provide their services without an additional charge. (credit: Tony Webster)
  8. Figure 1.3 One can distinguish between different types of goods by considering who has access to the goods (excludable/non-excludable) and how many people can access the good at the same time (rivalrous/non-rivalrous).2
  9. Types of government: democracy 9 A democracy is a form of government in which political power– influence over institutions, leaders, and policies–is controlled by the people. • In a representative democracy, such as the United States, citizens do not govern directly; government institutions and policy are determined by elected representatives. Representative democracies, however, often have a check on the power of citizens in order to protect the rights of minorities. • In a direct democracy, people participate directly in government decisions, instead of relying on elected representatives.
  10. Figure 1.5 Residents of Boxborough, Massachusetts, gather in a local hotel to discuss issues affecting their town. New England town meetings provide an opportunity for people to experience direct democracy. This tradition has lasted for hundreds of years. (credit: modification of work by Liz West)
  11. Types of government: monarchy & totalitarian 11 • In an absolute monarchy, a single, usually hereditary, ruler holds political power. – Many modern monarchies limit the monarch’s power with some form of representative government, such as a parliament. • Under totalitarian governments, the state, usually controlled by a single leader or small group of elites, controls virtually every aspect of citizens’ lives.
  12. Elitism vs. pluralism 12 • Within a representative democracy, the elite theory of government holds that a small group of elites controls power while other citizens have little or no influence. • The pluralist theory of government holds that competing interest groups influence the government and hold political power. – Citizens may influence the government by becoming involved with groups that share similar interests and engaging with their representatives at a local, state, or national level.
  13. Figure 1.7 The four most recent U.S. presidents have all graduated from an Ivy League university.
  14. The tradeoffs perspective 14 • The tradeoffs perspective acknowledges that competing interests, whether elitist or pluralist, vie for government influence. • These competing interests produce government actions and public policies that are influenced by a series of tradeoffs or compromises.
  15. Figure 1.8 A person in Ohio protests fracking (a). An announcement of a public meeting regarding fracking illustrates what some of the tradeoffs involved with the practice might be (b). (credit a: modification of work by “ProgressOhio/Flickr”; credit b: modification of work by Martin Thomas)
  16. Changes in involvement 16 • Traditionally, citizens engaged in democracy through membership in and advocacy on behalf of small groups, such as churches, local labor unions, and other groups. • Today, changes in society and technology leave many citizens with less time to be active members of a civic organization; instead, citizens join larger national organizations in which each individual typically plays a small role.
  17. Why get involved? 17 • Social capital is the collective value of all social networks and the willingness of these networks to work together toward a common goal • Civic engagement increases the power of an individual to influence government policies and actions • A representative democracy requires an informed citizenry to vote for candidates and advocate for desired policies, along with other forms of civic engagement
  18. Pathways to engagement 18 • Civic engagement may be undertaken individually or as a member of a group. • Forms of individual civic engagement include staying informed about current events, voting, giving to a political campaign, and contacting elected representatives about issues. • Forms of civic engagement through groups include discussing issues, working for a political campaign, volunteering or fundraising for an organization that shares one’s goals, registering people to vote, joining protests or marches, boycotting businesses that do not support one’s views, and many others.
  19. Figure 1.9 The print above, published in 1870, celebrates the extension of the right to vote to African American men. The various scenes show legal rights black slaves did not have.
  20. Factors of engagement: presidential elections 20 Approximately two-thirds of Americans engaged in some form of political action in 2008, a presidential election year. These activities typically included some form of impersonal action, such as signing petitions or contributing to a political campaign.
  21. Figure 1.10 Voters line up to vote early outside an Ohio polling station in 2008. Many who had never voted before did so because of the presidential candidacy of then-senator Barack Obama. (credit: Dean Beeler)
  22. Factors of engagement: age 22 Americans under the age of 30 are less likely to engage in partisan politics. • In a 2015 survey by the Harvard University Institute of Politics, more young Americans claimed affiliation with independents (40 percent) than Democrats (36 percent) or Republicans (21 percent). • Americans under 30 are less likely to participate in political action, but many engage in civic activities, such as volunteering to provide community services.
  23. Figure 1.11 After the Southern California wildfires in 2003, sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan helped volunteers rebuild houses in San Pasqual as part of Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity builds homes for low-income people. (credit: Johansen Laurel, U. S. Navy)
  24. Figure 1.12 Volunteers fed people at New York’s Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street protest in September 2011. (credit: David Shankbone)
  25. Factors of engagement: wealth and education 25 In addition to age, civic engagement is also greatly influenced by wealth and education: wealthier and more educated citizens are more likely to vote.
  26. Figure 1.12 Ritchie Torres (a) served alongside his mentor, James Vacca (b), on the New York City Council from 2014 to 2017, both representing the Bronx.
  27. Figure 1.13 The latest data show that more younger voters are now choosing to affiliate and identify with one of the two major parties, especially the Democratic party, rather than choosing to be independent.
  28. 2e Figure 1.6 The map of the world shows the different forms of government that currently exist. Countries that are colored blue have some form of representative democracy, although the people may not have as much political power as they do in the United States. Countries that are colored red, like China, Vietnam, and Cuba, have an oligarchic form of government. Countries that are colored yellow are monarchies where the people play little part in governing.
  29. 29 This OpenStax resource is Copyright 2021, Rice University. Significant portions of the text and outlines within these lecture slides were developed or compiled by Macmillan Learning to support OpenStax American Government, and provided to the community under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. Photos and illustrations are usually credited to their source. Where they are not, illustrations are Copyright 2021, Rice University, and also provided under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.