In this assignment, you will demonstrate an understanding of the components of democracy. Access the following template to review the assignment instructions

POL 2301, United States Government 1
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit I

Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

1. Summarize the origins of American political thought.
1.1 Define the key characteristics of American democracy.
1.2 Explain the importance of various components of a democracy.

Learning Outcomes
Learning Activity
Unit Lesson
Chapter 1, pp. 9–31
Unit I Scholarly Activity
Unit Lesson
Chapter 1, pp. 9–31
Unit I Scholarly Activity
Required Unit Resources

In order to access the following resource, click the link below.

Throughout this course, you will be provided with sections of text from the online textbook American
Government 2e. You may be tested on your knowledge and understanding of the material presented in the
textbook as well as the information presented in the unit lesson.

Chapter 1: American Government and Civic Engagement, pp. 9–31

Unit Lesson

Democracy is an idea that has a variety of meanings. In its most basic
form, democracy refers to a political system in which the government is
established by citizens, and citizens live by
the laws they make (i.e., the rule of the
people). In Unit I, key characteristics and
practices of American democracy, such as
direct democracy, indirect democracy,
government, common good, and civic
engagement, will be introduced and
explained. These fundamental concepts will
lay the foundation for the remainder of the

Origins of American Democracy

As this is a course in American government,
the idea of democracy is an appropriate place
to begin. In its pure form, direct democracy
means that all citizens must engage in creating
the laws under which everyone lives. However, as Greek philosopher Aristotle
pointed out over 2,000 years ago, democracy can exhibit negative qualities.

U.S. Government and Civic Engagement
(McLeod-Simmons, n.d.)
Plato and Aristotle
(Image Editor, n.d.)

POL 2301, United States Government 2
In order to access the following podcast, click the link below.

Listen to the podcast 60-Second Civics: Episode 3700, which is sponsored by the website Center
for Civic Education and speaks on Aristotle’s influence on modern U.S. government. The transcript
for the podcast 60-Second Civics: Episode 3700 is also available for your viewing.

Though the Athenian city-state’s democracy was a popular form of government for ancient Greeks,
Aristotle considered it an imperfect or deviant political system (Aristotle & Ellis, 2009). Like many later political
theorists, Aristotle considered democracy, or rule by the poor masses, to mean mob
rule. People are attentive to advancing their own interests and, if given political power,
will more than likely use that power to their own advantage.

Centuries later, Thomas Hobbes made a similar argument about human nature.

In order to access the following podcast, click the link below.

Listen to the podcast 60-Second Civics: Episode 91, which is sponsored by
the Center for Civic Education and speaks on Thomas Hobbes’s view on
human nature. The transcript for the podcast 60-Second Civics: Episode 91
is also available for your viewing.

The Hobbesian view saw life without government as “poor, nasty, brutish, and
short” (Hobbes & Gaskin, 1998, p. XLIII). However, for Aristotle, democracy had a
redeeming quality. While individuals may be self-interested, they are not entirely
egocentric and selfish. They possess a spark of virtue, which, under certain
circumstances, allows them to work together toward a collective good. Thomas
Jefferson, who had similar reservations about a direct democracy, also held that
mob rule can be tempered by the collective wisdom of the people and that the
average citizen can pursue not only private interests but also those things that
benefit everyone in a democratic republic (Jefferson, 1801). View the video Thomas
Jefferson Biographical Vignette to learn more about his life and work (transcript for
the video Thomas Jefferson Biographical Vignette).

One of the key features of Aristotle’s seminal work on government, The Politics, is
his typology of different types of government. He categorized governments based
on the chief aim of government and the number of leaders. Can you guess what he considered to be good
constitutions (i.e., good government)? Using the types of governments provided in the following interactivity
activity, fill in the chart, and see how many you get right.

In order to access the following activity, click the link below.

Interactive Activity 1.1: Types of Government

Click here to access the PDF version of Interactive Activity 1.1:
Types of Government.

A key Enlightenment-age political philosopher who championed democratic government was John Locke. In
his Two Treatises of Government written in 1689, Locke argued that government should be based on popular
consent and majority rule, and he suggested that government’s primary function is to protect individuals’
natural rights to life, liberty, and property (Locke & Shapiro, 2003).

Thomas Hobbes
(Wright, 1670)
Thomas Jefferson
(Peale, 1800)
(Chernetskaya, n.d.)

POL 2301, United States Government 3
In order to access the following podcast, click the link below.

Listen to the podcast 60-Second Civics: Episode 92, which is sponsored by the
Center for Civic Education and provides insight into John Locke’s philosophy.
The transcript for the podcast 60-Second Civics: Episode 92 is also available
for your viewing.

Following in the tradition of Hobbes in the Leviathan, which was written in 1651, Locke
argued that government is formed as a social contract between citizens and government.
In exchange for protecting the rights of citizens and maintaining order and stability,
citizens agree to submit themselves to the rule of government (Locke & Shapiro, 2003).

Government, Politics, and

The ancient Greeks and
Enlightenment philosophers
were engaged in discussion of
the best form of government.
In doing so, they laid the
foundation for the great
American experiment in
democratic government.

According to acclaimed
political scientist Harold
Lasswell (1936), politics is
about who gets what, when,
and how. Power centers on
the capacity to engage in
decision-making. Political
power is defined as the ability
to acquire political position and
determine resource
distribution. Government refers
to the institutions, procedures,
and people who have the
political power to conduct
politics by establishing rules
that are binding on everyone in order to ensure that society runs smoothly, safely, and peacefully. In the
United States, four key institutions operate at the national level to make such decisions: Congress, the
presidency, the courts, and the federal administrative agencies (bureaucracy). These institutions use
established procedures to develop and implement public policies, including elections, lawmaking (Congress
and the president), judicial proceedings (courts), and administrative discretion (bureaucracy). Working in
tandem, these institutions and procedures produce a variety of public goods for citizens, such as security,
health care, clean air and drinking water, education, and transportation infrastructure.

Who Governs

As a republic or representative democracy, citizens elect other citizens to make decisions for everyone;
however, political power is not always evenly distributed. As Aristotle noted over 2,000 years ago, the elite
few often seek to monopolize political power either for their own advantage or, in some cases, to the
collective benefit. This is known as elitism. While this view of political power may seem to contrast democratic
government, the argument can be made that most U.S. founders were the educated, wealthy, and landowning
elite of their time. Consider the number of U.S. presidents who are wealthy, successful, and well-educated.
Your textbook notes that one-third of all U.S. presidents and all five of the presidents between and 1989 and
2020 have attended Ivy League universities (Krutz, 2019). A recent Congressional Research Service report
indicates that 96% of members of the 116th Congress hold bachelor degrees, 40% hold law degrees, and
11% have doctorate degrees (Manning, 2019). Additionally, 95% of House and Senate members were men
John Locke
(Kneller, 1697)
Fashionable attendees at a French literary salon listen to a reading from
Voltaire, an Enlightenment writer and philosopher. During the
Enlightenment, these salons or drawing room gatherings were popular
among the upper classes of Europe, who assembled to listen to literary
readings and music.
(Lemonnier, 1812)

POL 2301, United States Government 4
as of 2020. The vast majority of U.S. presidents have had a peak net worth of over $1 million in today’s
currency with Donald Trump’s peak net worth topping the list with $3.1 billion (Suneson, 2019).

How Much Are They Worth?

Unlike the elitist model of political power, which focuses on the elite few competing for and holding power,
pluralism’s view centers on groups organizing and influencing government. According to pluralist theory,
citizens who want to engage in politics do so most successfully through groups, such as interest groups and
political parties. When dealing with the distribution of goods, pluralism attempts to balance the demands of
competing groups. This is the perspective of American life observed by
Alexisis de Tocqueville in his Democracy in America (de Tocqueville, 2009).

In order to access the following podcast, click the link below.

Listen to the podcast 60-Second Civics: Episode 3702, which is
sponsored by the Center for Civic Education and speaks on the
point of view of Alexis de Tocqueville. The transcript for the
podcast 60-Second Civics: Episode 3702 is also available for your

Pluralists like elitists can seek to acrue benefits for their own group members
to the exclusion of the collective good. James Madison (2008), one of the
Founding Fathers and the author of The Federalist
Paper #10, suggested that this could pose a threat to
America’s representative democracy (Madison, 2008). However, the forward-looking
Madison saw that groups, or factions, as he called them, could not be eliminated, as
people naturally join together. To control the tyrannizing effects of groups, Madison
contended that in a large, diverse country like the United States (even back then), if
groups were allowed to flourish, there would be a sufficient number of factions to allow
for a balance in competition between them. In a republican form of government,
Madison reasoned that freely operating groups would naturally create a check on each
other. Competing for political power, these diverse factions would lobby government,
bargain with each other, and, in the end, create sound public policies based on
compromise and consensus.

James Madison
(Harding, 1829)
Alexis de Tocqueville
(Chasseriau, 1850)

POL 2301, United States Government 5
In order to access the following podcast, click the link below.

Learn more about Madison’s political views by listening to the podcast 60-Second Civics: Episode
382, which is sponsored by the Center for Civic Education. The transcript for the podcast 60-
Second Civics: Episode 382 is also available for your viewing.

The Political Spectrum

For most people in the United States, some form of democracy immediately comes
to mind when they think about government. However, as Aristotle reminds us, there
are various forms of government with different numbers of leaders and varying goals
for those who hold political power. You can think of the variations in government as a
spectrum. Throughout the spectrum are ideologies, which are the beliefs and ideals
that help to shape political opinion and public policy. As you move out from the
center in either direction, power becomes more
focused in the hands of an increasingly few
individuals, such as in Hitler’s Germany, or specific
groups, such as the Communist Party of the old
Soviet Union. In totalitarian systems, the state and
its leadership have unlimited power, and they
exercise control over all aspects of political, social,
and economic life. A modern example of
totalitarianism is North Korea. For more information
on North Korea, see the Central Intelligence
Agency’s (CIA) webpage “The World Factbook” on
North Korea. In authoritarian states, such as the
People’s Republic of China and Cuba, power is
expansive, but there are some areas of individual freedom. In both systems, civic
engagement is nonexistent or highly limited. While in an authoritarian state, there
may be some areas in which citizens can engage in politics or economics. These
areas are not freely chosen by citizens but, rather, are selected by political leaders.
They are often areas that benefit political leadership, such as economic development
of markets or limited political freedoms, which help mitigate widespread political
protests. For more information on China, see the CIA’s webpage “The World
Factbook” on China. For more information on Cuba, see the CIA’s webpage “The
World Factbook” on Cuba.

On the political spectrum, note that representative democracy is in the center. Characteristics of
representative democracy include popular consent; popular sovereignty; limited government; majority rule;
protection of minority rights; protection of free and regular elections; protection of basic freedoms, such as
speech and press; provision of public goods; and at least moderate levels of civic engagement. As you move
away from the center in either direction, you become less of a centrist. Movement toward the left is a liberal
ideology associated with the Democrat Party, and movement toward the right is a conservative ideology
associated with the Republican Party.

In order to access the following activity, click the link below.

Interactive Activity 1.2: Political Spectrum

Click here to access the PDF version of Interactive Activity 1.2:
Political Spectrum.

The United States boasts a wide variety of ideologies and political parties, but most Americans remain faithful
to one of the two major parties and ideologies. A Gallup poll shows that in 2019 just over half of Americans
consider themselves either Republican (29%) or Democrat (27%); 38% of Americans call themselves
Kim Jong Un
(Scavina, 2018)
Josef Stalin and Vladimir
(Vladimir Lenin and Joseph
Stalin, 1919, 1919)
Che Guevara and
Fidel Castro
(Korda, 1961)
(Chernetskaya, n.d.)

POL 2301, United States Government 6
Independent (Gallup, n.d.). Of those affiliating with either Republicans or Democrats, about one-third are
solidly conservative or liberal, respectively (Desilver, 2014). However, Americans tend to be more diverse.
While the United States has a strong two-party system, Americans also align themselves with other ideologies
and parties, such as libertarianism and populism. Review the chart below to see the political beliefs of these
four ideologies.

What are you? Take an online quiz to see if you are conservative or
liberal and how conservative or liberal you really are.

In order to access the following activity, click the link below.

Interactive Activity 1.3: Political Typology Quiz

(Chernetskaya, n.d.)

POL 2301, United States Government 7
Civic Engagement in American Democracy

Can the United States remain a democratic system if citizens do not actively participate in government and
politics? What do citizens need in order to become and remain engaged in politics? What are some of the
common avenues through which citizens can participate in government and politics? How can government
facilitate civic engagement? What are the advantages and disadvantages of high- and low-level civic
engagement? Civic engagement refers to citizen participation in political society, whether through voting or
holding elective office. Civic engagement is a critical component of democracy.

For nearly 250 years, the U.S. Constitution has proven to be amazingly resilient, withstanding vast upheavals
in American politics and society, including massive population growth and expanding diversity, as well as civil
and global wars. Throughout the history of the United States, one key evolutionary feature that has withstood
time and change has been the country’s ability to continually broaden opportunities for civic engagement.
Perhaps it is this founding principle of civic engagement that has enabled the manifestation of Aristotle and
Jefferson’s vision of a democratic republic in which collective wisdom and individualism are combined in the
masses of democracy to establish what Alexis de Tocqueville(2009) called self-interest rightly understood or
what has come to be known as enlightened self-interest.

The founding principles of the United States are based on the supposition that its citizens will be actively
engaged in civic and political life. The rights of popular consent and popular sovereignty necessarily entail the
responsibility to engage in balancing self-interest meaningfully and knowledgeably with the common good.
This dovetails with the expectation that while citizens are entitled to protect their own rights and expect
government to do so as well, they must be willing to act as custodians and sentinels of the rights of others. No
one citizen’s rights are superior or subordinate to another’s. In his first inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson

All too will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases
to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal
rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-
citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony
and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. (Jefferson, 1801,
para. 2)

As a fundamental principle of American democracy, self-government depends not on presidents or judges or
legislators but, rather, on citizens. This first unit began with the classical influences on democratic
government. It closes with perhaps the most essential requirement of democracy, which is the active
engagement of citizens in political life.


Aristotle, & Ellis, W. (2009). The politics of Aristotle: A treatise on government. The Floating Press.

Chasseriau, T. (1850). Alexisis de Tocqueville [Painting]. Wikimedia.

Chernetskaya. (n.d.). Time to engage [Image].

Desilver, D. (2014). A closer look at who identifies as Democrat and Republican. Pew Research Center.

de Tocqueville, A. (2009). Democracy in America. Pacific Publishing Studio.

Gallup. (n.d.). Party affiliations.

POL 2301, United States Government 8
Gilbert, S. (1825). Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States [Portrait].

Gilbert, S. (1828). George Washington, first President of the United States [Portrait].

Harding, C. (1829). James Madison [Painting].,_1829-1830_-

Hobbes, T., & Gaskin, J. C. A. (1998). Leviathan. Oxford University Press.

Image Editor. (n.d.). Plato and Aristotle [Image].

Jefferson, T. (1801). First inaugural address. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 33, 148–152.

Kneller, G. (1697). John Locke [Painting]. Wikimedia.

Korda, A. (1961). Che Guevara & Fidel Castro [Photograph]. Wikimedia.

Krutz, G. (2019, February 21). American government 2e (S. Waskiewicz, Ed.). OpenStax.

Lasswell, H. (1936). Politics: Who gets what, when, how. McGraw-Hill.

Lemonnier, A. C. G. (1812). Reading of Voltaire’s L’Orphelin de la Chine in the salon of Madame Geoffrin
[Painting]. Wikimedia.

Locke, J., & Shapiro, I. (2003). Two treatises of government: And a letter concerning toleration. Yale
University Press.

Madison, J. (2008). The federalist. In L. Goldman (Ed.), The federalist papers.

McLeod-Simmons, L. (n.d.). U.S. capitol [Photograph].

OpenStax. (2019). American government (2nd ed) [eBook]. Retrieved from

Peale, R. (1800). Thomas Jefferson [Painting].,_1800.jpg

Suneson, G. (2019, February 13). The net worth of every US president from George Washington to Donald
Trump. USA Today. …

Why Choose Us

  • 100% non-plagiarized Papers
  • 24/7 /365 Service Available
  • Affordable Prices
  • Any Paper, Urgency, and Subject
  • Will complete your papers in 6 hours
  • On-time Delivery
  • Money-back and Privacy guarantees
  • Unlimited Amendments upon request
  • Satisfaction guarantee

How it Works

  • Click on the “Place Order” tab at the top menu or “Order Now” icon at the bottom and a new page will appear with an order form to be filled.
  • Fill in your paper’s requirements in the "PAPER DETAILS" section.
  • Fill in your paper’s academic level, deadline, and the required number of pages from the drop-down menus.
  • Click “CREATE ACCOUNT & SIGN IN” to enter your registration details and get an account with us for record-keeping and then, click on “PROCEED TO CHECKOUT” at the bottom of the page.
  • From there, the payment sections will show, follow the guided payment process and your order will be available for our writing team to work on it.