Politics matters. That is the core message of this book. The national government provides important services, ranging from retirement security and health care to recreation facilities and weather forecasts. The national government may also send us to war or negotiate peace with our adversaries, expand or restrict our freedom, raise or lower our taxes, and increase or decrease aid to education. As we enter the twenty-first century, decision makers of both political parties are facing difficult questions regarding American democracy and the scope of our government. Students need a framework for understanding these questions.
We write Government in America to provide our readers with a better understanding of our fascinating political system. This tenth edition of Government in America continues to frame its content with a public policy approach to government in the United States. We continually askand answerthe question, What difference does politics make to the policies governments produce? It is one thing to describe the Madisonian system of checks and balances and separation of powers or the elaborate and unusual federal system of government in the United States; it is something else to ask how these features of our constitutional structure affect the policies that governments generate.
We find that this focus engages students interest. Students, like their instructors, quickly recognize that the principal reason for studying politics is to understand why government produces the policies it does. What many see as dry subjects become interesting when they are tied to outcomes that directly affect each of us. Even introductory students feel comfortable in asking, So what? To reinforce this interest, we have a feature in the margins entitled Why does it matter? in which we ask students to think critically about some aspect of our system and how things might be if it worked differently.
We do not discuss policy at the expense of politics, however. We provide extensive coverage of five core subject areas: constitutional foundations, patterns of political behavior, political institutions, public policy outputs, and state and local government, but we try to do so in a more analytically significantand interestingmanner. We take special pride in introducing students to relevant work from current political scientists, such as the role of PACs or the impact of divided governmentsomething we have found instructors appreciate.
It is not enough to arouse students interest, however. To be a useful teaching tool, a text must be accessible to students and enjoyable to read. We believe that a principal reason for the success of Government in America is its high level of readability. To ensure that the material is not only clearly presented but also meaningful, we make special efforts to illustrate points with interesting examples to which students can relate. The ability of Congress to indirectly regulate behavior in the states becomes more meaningful when the power is illustrated with a discussion of raising the drinking age. In addition, this is neither a conservative nor a liberal book. Instead, we make every effort to present material in an evenhanded manner. As a result, over the years we have received many letters in which students have told us how much they enjoyed reading the book. Needless to say, we find this response very gratifying.
To render the policy focus in concrete terms, two important themes appear throughout the book: the nature of democracy and the scope of government. Each chapter begins with a preview of the relevancy of these themes to the chapters subject, refers to the themes at points within the chapter, and ends with specific sections on the two themes under the heading Understanding . . . that show how the themes illuminate the chapters subject matter.
The first great question central to governing, a question that every nation must answer is How should we govern? In the United States, our answer is democracy. Yet democracy is an evolving and somewhat ambiguous concept. In Chapter 1, we define democracy as a means of selecting policymakers and of organizing government so that policy represents and responds to citizens preferences. As with previous editions, we continue to incorporate theoretical issues in our discussions of different models of American democracy. We try to encourage students to think analytically about the theories and to develop independent assessments of how well the American system lives up to citizens expectations of democratic government. To help them do this, in every chapter we raise questions about democracy. For example, does Congress give the American people the policies they want? Is a strong presidency good for democracy? Does our mass media make us more democratic? Are powerful courts that make policy decisions compatible with democracy?
A common complaint about the national government is that it cannot respond to the needs of its citizens, that it suffers from gridlock. A subtheme to our discussion of democracy is whether Americas diversity and the openness of our political system have the drawback of incapacitating government. The diversity of the American people is reflected in the variety of political interests represented in the political system. This system is so open that many different interests find access to policymakers. In our system of checks and balances, opposition by one set of policymakers can sometimes frustrate the will of the majority. We leave it to the reader to determine whether the difficulty of achieving policy change, be it the Clinton health care reform plan or the Republicans tax cut, is a positive feature of our system. Our goal is to promote understanding of the consequences of the American democratic system and to provoke discussion about these consequences. We find that students are especially interested in why government does not do something.
The second theme, the scope of government, focuses on another great question of governing: What should government do? Here we discuss alternative views concerning the proper role and size for American government and how this scope is influenced by the workings of institutions and politics. The governments scope is the core question around which politics revolves in contemporary America, pervading many crucial issues: To what degree should Washington impose national standards such as speed limits on state policies? How high should taxes be? Do elections encourage politicians to promise more governmental services? Questions about the scope of government are policy questions and thus obviously directly related to our policy approach. Since the scope of government is the pervasive question in American politics today, students will have little problem finding it relevant to their lives and interests.
A subtheme of the scope of government is the role of individualism in American political life. The people who immigrated to America may have been diverse, but many adopted a common dream of America as a place where people could make it on their own without interference from government. Today, individualism remains a powerful influence in the United States. Americans strong preference for free markets and limited government has important consequences for public policy. For example, it substantially constrains efforts to intervene in the economy, efforts that have long been the norm in other developed democracies.
At the same time, a central contest in American politics has been between two kinds of individualism. Economic individualism embraces the doctrines of capitalism. The purpose of government is to protect the creativity of entrepreneurs and markets, which leads to well being. Democratic individualism appeals to government to redress the social inequalities that result from economic individualism. Puritans, abolitionists, agrarian populists, prohibitionists, civil rights crusaders, feminists, and the contemporary religious right have preached collective purpose against individualism. Thus, we often employ the concept of individualism in our analysis of the scope of government.
We hope that studentslong after reading Government in Americawill employ these perennial questions about the nature of our democracy and the scope of our government when they examine political events. The specifics of policy issues will change, but questions about whether the government is responsive to the people or whether it should expand or contract its scope will always be with us.
Six features appear throughout Government in America: (1) You Are the Policymaker/Judge; (2) America in Perspective; (3) Making a Difference; (4) Why Does It Matter?; (5) How You Can Make a Difference; and (6) Career Profile. Each of the features plays a particular role in the text to support our approach to American government.
We believe it is important that students recognize and think critically about difficult policy choices they must face as citizens. You Are the Policymaker asks students to read arguments on both sides of a specific current issue, such as whether we should prohibit PACs, and then to make a policy decision. In Chapters 4 and 5 (Civil Liberties and Civil Rights), this feature is titled You Are the Judge and presents the student with an actual court case. This feature directly supports our policy approach.
There are many ways to teach lessons, and many instructors find that employing a comparative approach helps them to make their points more effectively. Our America in Perspective feature examines how the United States compares to other countries in areas such as tax rates, voter turnout, and the delivery of public services. Through reading these boxes and comparing the United States to other nations, students can obtain a better perspective on the size of our government and the nature of our democracy.
In Making a Difference we focus on an individual who became involved in government and politics and made a difference as a result. Our goal is simple: to show students that individuals, ordinary people, canand domake a difference in what government does. This feature nicely complements our increased focus on the relevance of government to our lives.
We mentioned earlier our feature that appears several times in each chapters margins entitled Why Does It Matter? Here we encourage students to think critically about an aspect of government, politics, or policy and ask them to consider the impactusually on themselvesif things worked differently.
Two new features appear in the tenth edition. First, How You Can Make a Difference provides students with information on how they can get involved with issues in order to influence how government works or what policies are established. We feel this feature is a natural extension of the Making a Difference boxes, which made their first appearance in our last edition. Career Profile, our second new feature, focuses on careers in government by providing profiles of average people employed in areas of government and politics relevant to each chapter. We present details about salaries and benefits and where readers can find additional information about the career. We are confident that this information will help make the material even more relevantand practicalfor students.
Each chapter ends with a contemporary bibliography, a listing of key terms, and Internet resources relevant to the chapter. (The URLs included at the end of each chapter were current when the book went to press. However, changes or updates may have been made to the site at the discretion of the individual site owner or webmaster.)
Finally, as an additional study aid, we also define key terms in the margins of the text when they are first introduced.
This tenth edition of Government in America is completely up to date and incorporates the best recent scholarship on U.S. government. Our emphasis in each chapter on the scope of government is also very timely, as it remains at the core of debates about taxation, regulating tobacco products, campaign finance, and access to health care. We provide comprehensive coverage of the 2000 presidential, congressional, and state electionsboth the campaigns and the resultsin Chapters 810 and 1213. We also include the latest Supreme Court decisions from 2001 on federalism, civil liberties, civil rights, and other relevant topics. From the numbers for the 2000 census to the backgrounds of President Bushs cabinet members, the text, tables, and figures reflect the most recent available data. Naturally, we devote considerable attention to the new Bush administration in Chapter 13 and to the efforts of both the president and Congress to deal with the budget (Chapter 14), which has become central to American politics and policy.
Graphics play an important role in textbooks, and we have substantially upgraded our figures, graphs, tables, and charts in this edition. We have employed more vibrant colors and worked to make all our graphics easier and more interesting to read. We also provide a brief guide to using graphics following this preface.
It is worth noting here that the website for the tenth edition of Government in America (www.aolonline.com/edwards) includes a section of updates. These updates provide the latest information on campaign finance, voter turnout, and other matters as soon as the data become available. These allow us to offer the most current information between editions and to provide new links to sources of information useful to both students and faculty.
The Appendix continues to include the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers No. 10 and No. 51, tables on presidents and presidential elections, party control of the presidency and Congress in the twenty-first century, Supreme Court justices serving in the last century, and a glossary of key terms. We continue to provide a list of key terms in Spanish.