AMERICAN POLITICAL SYSTEM
Background and Purpose
The Republican party appears ready and able to institute sweeping
chances in American government and public policy. Democrats,
although disorganized and ineffectual, bitterly oppose many of
these initiatives. Consequently, 1997 will undoubtedly prove to
be a seminal year in American history. After all, the new
system, whatever it turns out to be, will probably bear little
resemblance to the one that has governed us for the past half
century. This, then, is an exciting time to study American
This section of POSC 105 takes a hard look at the American
political system and various proposals to change it. In so doing
we will look beyond rhetoric and symbols to see how government
really works. Lots of myths and stereotypes will fall by the
Rather than describe the nuts and bolts of American government--a
job perhaps best left to a civics class or textbook--the lectures
and class discussions will deal with a limited number of topics:
- does the federal budget really need to be balanced?
- has America really been governed by "tax and spend" liberals,
as conservative change?
- do currently proposed reforms of welfare, crime, and health
policies have any chance of succeeding?
- the ways in which the political system resembles government
in George Orwell's 1984.
- the capacity and willingness of average people to govern
- the corrupting influence of money in politics.
- the strengths and very real weakness of the constitution.
- the roles of symbols and myths in election campaigns.
- theories of who has and who should have power in a
society like the United States.
Each class, in short, will be devoted to a specific and important
Requirements and Materials
- Two (2) tests covering class discussions, handouts, films,
readings and other relevant material.
- About 5 to 10 unannounced quizzes.
- A clippings file of articles from The New York Times.
- Electronic mail and bulletin boards.
- Three to four paperback books.
- R. Heilbroner and P. Bernstein, The Debt and Deficit
- A. Koltowitz, There Are No Children Here
- A general text for background reading.
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H. T. Reynolds
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