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Principles of Government
What is “the state” ?
Taken from the Latin stare (to stand) a state is a political
community that occupies a definite territory; having an
organized government with the authority to make and
enforce laws without the consent of a higher authority.
* Synonymous with the term country and nation-state
* Not to be confused with nation, which is defined as a
group of people united by some common bond.
Such as…
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What are the features of a state?
• Population
• Territory / land
• Sovereignty – supreme and absolute power
within its territorial boundaries. For example…
• Government – the institution and processes
through which the state maintains social order,
provides public services, and enforces binding
decisions. Such as…
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Origins of the State
How did states and governments come into
being? Four theories:
•
•
•
•
Evolution Theory
Force Theory
Divine Right
Social Contract
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Evolution Theory
• States evolved from family units
• Families grew into large extended units or
tribes
• Heads of the family served as a government
How so…
• Evolved into tribal councils with a
hierarchy of authority
Examples…
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Force Theory
• Governments emerged when people are
were brought under the control of some
authority
• States emerged from the conquest of other
families or tribes
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Divine Right
• Belief that kings are chosen by a deity to
rule the state
Ancient examples include Egyptians and Aztecs
• 15th Century Europe, the belief is used by
royalty as the justification for absolute rule
• To question the king was not only treason
but seen as a sin against God
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Social Contract ~ Hobbes
• 17th Century & The Age of Enlightenment,
People begin to challenge the monarchy and
the idea of Divine Right
• Thomas Hobbes promotes the concept of
government by social contract
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Hobbes ~ Social Contract
• In a “state of Nature” there is no
government and man is free.
• However, absolute freedom has
a price… life is “cruel, brutish
and short” Why?
• To escape this cruel reality, men
would give up some freedom to
the state; in return the
government (state) would offer
people security through law &
order
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Locke ~ Social Contract
• John Locke took Hobbes ideas
one step further by promoting
the “right to revolution”
• Locke believed that if the
government fails to provide
people with security or if the
state abused its power over the
people the people could change
the government.
Does this happen today?
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Types of Government?
• Autocracy
• Oligarchy
• Democracy
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Autocracies
• Power and authority to rule held by one
person
• Totalitarian dictatorships (examples…)
• Monarchies- Absolute & Constitutional
(examples…)
• Pros & Cons…
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Oligarchies
• Power and authority to rule is held by a
small group of individuals
• (Examples…)
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Democracies
• From the Greek demos (people) and kratia
(to rule). Thus ~ rule by the people
Too simple & naïve
• Democracy is a system of government in
which people select policy makers so that
policies reflect the will of those governed.
(explain…)
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Two forms of Democracy
• Direct democracy allows the people the
authority to govern themselves directly
• People make and vote on policies in forums
• Only exist in small communities today
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Two forms of Democracy
• Representative democracy people select
representatives and give them authority to
make laws and run the government
• Also known as: republic, indirect
democracy and constitutional republic
• Still in all, power ultimately rests with the
public
• Legitimacy and Revolution?
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Characteristics of Democracies
• Individual liberty
• Majority rule with consideration of the
rights of the minority
• Free elections
• Competing political parties
Characteristics of Democracies
Individual Liberty
• Freedom of speech does not give a person
the right to scream, “Fire!” In a crowded
theater ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
Explain….
• Remember the social contract, we agree to
give up freedom for security and the rule of
law.
• Civil liberties (freedom) is relative not
absolute.
Characteristics of Democracies
Majority Rule with Minority Rights
• Minority refers to numerical minority not
race
• Elections are won by the candidate who
wins the majority of votes. (Duh!)
• However, those who hold power should be
considerate of the minority because the
minority can become the majority. (Huh?)
• Representative legislatures prevent “tyranny
of the majority”
(Explain…)
Characteristics of Democracies
Free Elections
• Free and open elections are the cornerstone
of a democracy. (Explain…)
• Amendments 15, 17, 19, 23,24, & 26 have
extended voting rights
• Every vote carries the same weight
• Candidates are able to express views freely
• Legal voting requirements are kept to a
minimum (Examples…)
• Ballots are secret (Australian Ballot) (So...)
Characteristics of Democracies
Competing Political Parties
• A political party is a group of individuals
with broad common interests who organize
to nominate candidates, win elections, run
government and make public policy.
• Parties give voters a choice and voice. A
vote is a statement (Explain…)
• Parties should clarify issues and educate the
public,
• Parties also serve as watchdogs

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