Chapter 4: Political Culture and Ideology
social capital- Participation in voluntary organizations that reinforce democratic and civic habit of discussion, compromise, and respect for differences.
political culture- The widely shared beliefs, values, and norms concerning the relationship of citizens to government and to one another.
natural rights- The rights of all people to dignity and worth; also called human rights.
democratic consensus- Widespread agreement on fundamental principles of democratic governance and the values that undergird them.
majority rule- Governance according to the expressed preferences of the majority.
popular sovereignty- A belief that ultimate power resides in the people.
American Dream- The widespread belief that individual initiative and hard work can bring economic success, and that the U.S. is a land of opportunity..
capitalism- an economic system characterized by private property, competitive markets, economic incentives, and limited government involvement in the production and pricing of goods and services.
monopolies- Large corporations or firms that dominate their industries and are able to artificially fix prices and discourage competition.
antitrust legislation- Federal laws (starting with the Sherman Act of 1890) that try to prevent monopolies from dominating an industry and restraining trade.
ideology- One’s basic beliefs about political values and the role of government.
liberalism- A belief in the positive uses of government to bring about justice and equality of opportunity.
conservatism- A belief that limited government ensures order, competitive markets, and personal opportunity.
socialism- An economic and governmental system based on public ownership of the means of production and exchange.
environmentalism- An ideology that is dominated by concern for the environment but also promotes grass-roots democracy, social justice, equal opportunity, nonviolence, respect for diversity, and feminism.
libertarianism- An ideology that cherishes individual liberty and insists on a sharply limited government, promoting a free-market economy, a noninterventionist foreign policy, and an absence of regulation in the moral and social spheres.
American Political Culture
LIBERTY: Americans are united by liberty and freedom.
EQUALITY: Americans believe that everybody in the U.S. has the right to equality. Equality encompasses political equality, the idea that every individual has the right to equal protection under the law and equal voting power and equality of opportunity, the idea that every individual should have as many social and economic opportunities as everybody else.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE: A belief that the common people should decide who governs them.
DEMOCRATIC CONSENSUS: There are people of different backgrounds, yet they widely agree on certain fundamental principles of governance and values that encompass these principles.
The people believe in majority rule and that the government should follow the expressed preferences of the majority as long as they do not conflict with the law.
The belief that ultimate power should reside in the people has also been uniting the United States.
JUSTICE AND THE RULE OF LAW: The rule of law should follow these five criteria
Generality: Laws should apply to all people.
Prospectivity: Laws should apply to the future and not punish action from the past.
Publicity: Laws cannot be kept secret and then enforced.
Authority: Only people with legitimate power can pass valid laws, and they should do it with popular consent.
Due Process: Laws must be enforced with fair processes.
NATIONALISM, OPTIMISM, IDEALISM: Americans are highly optimistic and believe in opportunity and individualism.
The American Dream
Many Americans believe that hard work and individual initiative can bring economic success. Capitalism is crucial this idea. If would not have free market and private property, this idea would not exist.
Yet, this dream remains unfulfilled for many Americans. Chances for success still depend on where one went to college and the family one was born in.
Political and Economic Change
THE INDUSTRIAL TRANSFORMATION: The success of the American economy has led to great wealth in a few hands. Big corporations exploit workers and dominate their industry. The antitrust legislation tried to prevent monopolies from dominating their industry. This legislation has also sowed the idea that the government should promote, as the Constitution asserts, “the general welfare” even if this means that it has to regulate trade.
THE GREAT DEPPRESSION: The Great Depression has shaped Americans’ thinking about the government and its role in the capitalistic system. Many people turned to the government for help, thereby starting government regulation on trade.
Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined a Second Bill of Rights
- The right to a useful job.
- The right to earn enough money for adequate food, clothing and recreation
- The right of a farmer to sell his produce and sell it for a decent living.
- The right of a businessman to trade in a fair and free environment and not to be dominated by monopolies.
- The right of a family to have a decent home.
- The right to adequate medical care.
- The right to adequate protection from economic fears of old age, sickness or accident, and unemployment.
- The right to a good education.
Ideology and Attitudes about the role of government
Classic Liberals have favored a Limited government and seek to minimize government harassment. They are in favor of progress and think that we Americans will be able to overcome their obstacles.
Contemporary Liberals- Today’s liberals think that a positive use of government can bring justice and equal opportunity. They believe in private enterprise but that the federal government should be able to intervene if necessary. Liberals seek protection against inadequate healthcare, housing and education. They also believe that tax rates should rise with income. They prefer that the government take care of the weak and poor since the rich can take care of themselves.
Criticisms of Liberalism- Critics say liberals rely on governmental solutions and bureaucracy too much and that federal regulation on the economy destroys individual initiative.
Conservatives believe that government should ensure order. They also believe that people who fail in life are in some way responsible for their misfortune and that it is their responsibility to solve their own problems.
Traditional Conservatives- The traditional conservatives are pro-business. They oppose higher taxes and all but the most necessary regulation on trade. They believe that government should encourage a free and fair market, enforce private contracts and foster competitive markets. They favor having a market, rather than the government, to provide services.
Social Conservatives- Social Conservatives focus more on lifestyle and morality rather than economics. They want strict limitations on abortions and other similar issues. They have a strong desire to impose social controls. Social Conservatives tend to be on the Republican Party.
Criticisms of Conservatism-Critics say that conservatives want more government action when it serves their need but oppose it when it serves somebody else’s need. Conservatives believe that lower taxes on the rich will eventually “trickle down” to the poor. Critics argue that, instead of actively trying to fight poverty, the conservatives rely on the market to solve those problems.
Karl Marx described socialism as a transitional stage between capitalism and communism. Socialism is a mix between capitalism and communism. Socialist want to tax the wealthy more, institute governmental jobs and cut defense spending.
Environmentalists focus on the environment rather than the economy and role of government. Their values are grass-roots democracy, social justice, equal opportunity, nonviolence, respect for diversity, and feminism.
Liberationists favor strong individual liberty and insist on a strongly limited government. They oppose to many government programs, such as the FBI and CIA, and favor massive cuts in government spending. They also oppose government regulation, for example, mandatory seat belt and helmet laws.
A Word of Caution
“Liberal” has many meanings. In certain European nations, “liberal” means on the right but in the U.S. it means to be on the left.
Ideology and the American People
Ideological controversy centers on how we can improve school, social security, and other issues. The distribution of ideology has been fairly consistent in the United States. There are few extremists and most of the people are in the middle. Both the Republicans and Democrats target these votes that are in the middle. Most Americans do not organize their attitudes systematically. People might oppose higher taxes, but vote for a party that wants to increase taxes because they always have voted for that party. Many Americans find it difficult to relate political events to other events to see the “big picture”.
Ideology and Tolerance
Political scientists say liberals tend to be more tolerant than conservatives. Liberals are usually more tolerant of dissent and the expression of unorthodox opinions. Most liberals strongly oppose lawbreaking and crime but also focus on the roots of it, whereas conservatives have more concern for the victim. Conservatives are seen as less willing to allow free speech that is out of the political and cultural mainstream. Liberals favor limited free speech in areas like campaign spending or cigarette advertising. Conservatives believe that the U.S. has become too permissive; especially conservatives in the New Right are highly critical of abortion and homosexuals. Liberals, on the other hand believe that these discomforts are inescapable byproducts of freedom.