Government presents us with the formal institutions through which we live our social, economic, religious, and other cultural lives and the political institutions that men and women use to see to our government. Our textbook describes politics, the process by which our government works, as follows: “Politics centers on actions among a number of people involving influence. How do people get others to do what they wish? How does our society or any group…distribute its valued things, such as wealth, prestige, and security? Who gets these values, and how?”
Simply put, politics is the situation of power, which defines “the ability to influence another’s [sic] behavior.” This influence can be exerted passively, such as a debate, or through coercive efforts, like putting down a civil war. Fundamentally, the presence of influence, whether exerted by power or not, “involved relationships between people and groups.” So, government is the formal expression of influence .Government as institutions, whether national, state, or local, does two fundamental things. First, people in government determine who will benefit from society’s values, when and how they will benefit from them, and why? Benefits range from public assistance to the right to vote, from national health care insurance to assistance in times of natural disaster. Second, those who are elected, appointed, or hired in government also regulate the use of society’s legitimate force against members or enemies of that society, which is generally done for the benefit of others.
Along with introducing you to government and politics, your readings this week introduce you to the Constitution, which as our textbook authors point out, provides us with “rules of the game” for conducting government and politics. It provides an historical background of the drafting of the original Constitution document and the debate over ratification of that document. It then discusses two fundamental characteristics of the government created by the Constitution: the separation of powers and checks and balances. So, with your readings and the above brief summary of what was written in your textbook for this week’s lesson, please respond to the following: Government is the expression of power; power is the creation of influence; and, influence affects the relationships between people and groups of a particular society. Now, think for a moment: What types of relationships can you think of, within our American society, and identify as being influenced by power within the institutions of government? How might the influence be exerted, with what guarantee of power (consequences), and by what institutions or agencies of government? Please identify and discuss at least three examples. Your response to this initial post should be at least two or three paragraphs in length (at least five sentences per paragraph) and include specific examples to support your opinions. Once you have responded to this post, I will read your response. At that time, I will either provide a follow-up post for your response or direct you to critique another students’ response. Please wait for me to do this before you continue.