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Flashcards in Introduction to Politics Deck (43):

What is Politics?

Defined: the process through which individuals and groups reach agreement on a course of common, or collective, action - even if they disagree on the intended goals of the action 

  • "who gets what, when, and how"
  • a peaceful process of determining how power and resources are distributed in a society  


What do politics determine? 

•The ability to get other people to do what you want

•Creates a social order, the way we organize and live our lives

•Provides consistency, stability, resolution


What does politics involve?

cooperation, debate, bargaining, and compromise


What is the definition of an institution?

a structure or mechanism of social order governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given community

  • have a set of rules and procedures for reaching and enforcing collective agreements. 


What is the definition of "rules" in relation to politics?

Rules are – directives that specify how resources will be distributed or what procedures govern collective action

Examples of rules and procedures that promote collective action

  • the constitution 


Define the relationship between legitimacy and authority 

Legitimacy is accepted as right or proper

•Government has monopoly over legitimate use of force to exercise authority over a body of people


Authority is power that is recognized as legitimate

•acknowledged right to make particular decisions


Define Constitution 

establishes a nation’s governing institutions and the set of rules and procedures these institutions must (and must not) follow to reach and enforce collective agreements. 


Define government 

consists of these institutions and the legally prescribed process for making and enforcing collective agreements.


In an authoritarian system who holds all the power?


the state holds all power, people cannot effectively claim rights again the state


What are the different forms of an authoritarian system?

  • Dictatorship or Monarchy - sovereignty can be vested in an individual
  • Theocracy - sovereignty can be vested in the state itself
  • Fascism - sovereignty can be vested in the state itself 
  • Oligarchy - sovereignty can be vested in a ruling class 


What is the combination of an authoritarian government with a socialist economy ?

Totalitarian system 

A totalitarian system exercises its power over every part of society

Example: Soviet Union 

• Authoritarian states may also limit their own power – its referred to as authoritarian capitalism 

Example: Singapore


Define Anarchy

the absence of government 



Define Democracy

(sub-defintion of popular sovereignty)

(sub-definition social contract) 

•Government vests power in the people

  • Based on popular sovereignty = the concept that citizens are the ultimate source of political power
  • Social contract = notion that society is based on an agreement between government and governed in which people agree to give up some rights in exchange for the protection of others •Constitution


What is a representative government?

a blend of delegation with majority (voting) rule


What is direct democracy?

•a form of government in which citizens participate directly in collective decision making

–Reserved for small communities and organization 


Republic v.s. majority rule

Define both 

• Republic: government in which decisions are made through representatives of the people

• Parliamentary government: Decisive authority is lodged in a popularly elected legislature that, in turn, elects a cabinet of which one member serves as the premier or prime minister.

–Eg. France and Germany (most democracies)


What are the core valaues embedded in American institutions?

  1. Republic, representative democracy
  2. periodic elections
  3. protection of individual liberties
  4. principles of how members of a community should engage one another politically to identify and pursue their common goals (political engagement) 
    • collective action 


What are problems with the collective action? 

• Successful collective action challenges participants to figure out what to do and how to do it, and involves

–comparing preferences

–agreeing on a course of action (alternative) that is preferable to doing nothing

–implementing and enforcing the collective choice


What is institutional durability?

institutions tend to be stable and resist change 

– Institutions persist beyond the tenure of office holders who occupy them.

– The people who are affected by them make plans based on the expectation that current arrangements will remain (the status quo).

– Those who seek change typically cannot agree on alternatives.


What is the prisoners dilemma?

•Type of coordination problem

•Arises when individuals privately calculate that they would be better off by not contributing to the collective action EVEN when they completely agree with its purpose

•When individuals, who ultimately would benefit from cooperating with each other have a powerful incentive to break from the agreement and exploit the other side


Define Free- Rider Problem 

• the temptation to defect from agreements by withholding contribution to group’s undertaking while enjoying the benefits of the collective effort


- With increasing size, individual contributions to the collective action become increasingly inconsequential—hence individuals realize their individual contribution will not affect the collective success or failure

- But everyone has this option, and if everyone takes it then no successful collective action


Collective Action Problems

A image thumb

What are the costs of Collective Action? 

• Collective action offers participants benefits they cannot achieve on their own.

• Governments help achieve and enforce these agreements


• Associated costs:

–monetary contribution (eg. taxes)

–overhead costs (costs for enforcement)  

–transaction costs   

–conformity costs


Define transaction costs 

the time, effort, and resources required to make collective decisions.

• They can be a barrier to political agreements.

• Transaction costs increase as the number of participants increase. 

• High transaction costs are sometimes instituted to make certain activities more difficult.  


Define conformity costs

the difference between what any one party prefers and what the collective body requires.

• Losers in politics: the parties whose preferences receive little accommodation but who must still contribute to the collective undertaking.

–Eg. taxes for programs one opposes

• The two costs are inversely related.

–Eg. dictator (low transaction, high conformity) versus consensus (high, low)


What is the role of the government?

• Enables and enforces collective action

• Provides positive public goods while corrects or minimizes negative public goods

–Resources and coercive authority

•Public goods

–costs are borne collectively

–no one is excluded from the benefits     

• Positive versus negative public goods    

–positive public goods (e.g., national defense and public order)   

–negative public goods (e.g., pollution)     


How did the framers design the government?

– minimized conformity costs

– escalated transaction costs

– constrained majority rule


Majority rule is visibly present but is constrained by powerful rules such as

– separation of powers

– staggered legislative terms

– an unelected judiciary

– limited national authority 


What did the framers do to try to change the American political system and head toward "a more perfect"?

  • they intentionally placed high transaction costs 
  • designed the constitution so a flash of popular passion would not undo it 


What are the barriers to institutional change?

•The degree of difficulty in reforming U.S. institutions depends on how fundamental and broad the intended change will be.

•The Framers put impediments in the way of reform.

–Amending the Constitution may be the most difficult task in American politics because of the high transaction costs.

•There are other obstacles to reform:

–Anyone seeking to change the political system most solve to collective action problems: coordination and motivation.

–Americans may be reluctant to alter the Constitution even for a momentary popular cause.   


What are the reforms that stop short of constitutional reform?

•The status quo bias still exists for rules that govern American politics, albeit not as strongly as in the past.

•Changing a law or regulation is easier than amending the Constitution and may engender less reluctance from voters or legislators.  


What are the ideas that Unite the US?

•A common culture based on shared values

•Political culture: the broad patterns of ideas, beliefs, and values about citizens and government held by the citizens of a country

Values: central ideas, principles, or standards that most people agree are important

–We often take our political culture for granted or aren’t aware of it

–Often, our values are shared and handed down


Define procedural gurantees

government assurance that the rules will work smoothly and treat everyone fairly, with no promise of particular outcomes


–Other democracies, such as those in Sweden and Norway, concentrate on substantive guarantees: assuring outcomes are fair



Define Individualism 

Belief that what is good for society is based on what is good for individuals

-individuals, not government, are responsible for their own well-being

-contrasts with collectivist point of view 


What are the "core American values" ?

• Democracy: representative democracy is a fair way to make decisions
• Freedom: procedural view that no unfair restrictions will be placed on you
• Equality: Americans believe in equality of treatment, access, and opportunity but not in  guaranteeing equality of result


Define ideologies

sets of beliefs about politics and society that help people make sense of their world


Define conservatives 

people who generally favor limited government and are cautious about change 


Define liberals 

people who generally favor government action and view change as progress 


Define Libertarians

People who believe that only minimal government action in any sphere is acceptable


Define Social liberals 

Tend to favor a substantive government role in achieving a more equal distribution of material resources


Define communitarians 

Hold a strong commitment to a community based on radical equality of all people


Define social conservatives 

share economic conservative's views on limited government involvement in the economy