Chapter 1: Ideas That Shape American Politics

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Suggests that people can influence government though the many interest groups that spring up to champion everything from fighting global warming to banning abortions.


A government in which citizens rule indirectly and make government decisions through their elected representatives.

Elite Theory

Counters that power actually rests in the hands of a small number of wealthy and powerful people.

Bureaucratic Theory

Argues that the real control of government lies with the millions of men and woman who carry out the day-to-day operations of modern government and business.

Social Movement Theory

Answers that mass popular uprisings have the potential to introduce great changes regardless of who is in control of ordinary, day-to-day politics.


How a society makes its collective decisions and how resources are distributed.

Name the Four "I's"

Ideas, Interests, Individuals and Institutions.


These are the organizations, norms, and rules that structure political action.

Basic Functions of the US government

Establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.

tyranny of the majority

The potential of a majority to monopolize power for its own gain to the detriment of minority rights and interests.

American Exceptionalism

The view that the United States is unique because it is motivated by a set of ideas such as equality, democracy, and limited government.

Golden Opportunity

The mythological belief that we are a nation of rugged individuals who are self-reliant and do not need government assistance; we only need an opportunity.

What are the seven big ideas?

Liberty, Self-Rule, Limited Government, Individualism, the American dream, equality, and faith in God.

Limited Government

The idea that certain restrictions should be placed on government to protect the natural rights of citizens.

Negative Liberty

Freedom from constraints or the interference of others.

Positive Liberty

The freedom and ability to pursue one's goals.


The idea that legitimate government flows from the people.


A government in which citizens rule directly and make government decisions for themselves.


The idea that individuals, not the society, are responsible for their own well-being.


All citizens enjoy the same privileges, status, and rights before the laws.

Social Equality

All individuals enjoy the same status in society.

Political Equality

All citizens have the same political rights and opportunities.

Economic Equality

A situation where there are only small differences in wealth between citizens.

Equal Opportunity

The idea that every American has an equal chance to win economic success.

Equal Outcome

The idea that citizens should have roughly equal economic circumstances.