HGov: Interest Groups


Americans join all kinds of groups that reflect their interests. A political interest group is composed of a set of individuals organized to promote a shared concern. Most interest groups owe their existence to factors other than politics. These groups form for economic reasons, such as the pursuit of profit, and maintain themselves by making profits, in the case of corporations, or by providing their members with private goods, such as jobs and wages. Economic groups include corporations, trade associations, labor unions, farm organizations, and professional associations. Collectively, economic groups are by far the largest set of organized interests. The group system tends to favor interests that are already economically and socially advantaged.

Citizens’ groups do not have the same organizational advantages as economic groups. They depend on voluntary contributions from potential members, who may lack interest and resources or who recognize that they will get the collective good from a group’s activity even if they do not participate, the free-rider problem. Citizens’ groups include public-interest, single-issue, and ideological groups. Their numbers have increased dramatically since the 1960s despite their organizational problems.

When such groups seek to influence government, at any level, they are called special-interest groups or special interests. The term special interest refers to a particular goal or set of goals that unites the members of a group.

There are thousands of interest groups in the United States. Although they differ in many respects, their basic goal is the same: they all try to persuade elected officials to take actions to support their interests. Special-interest groups fall into several categories, depending on their membership and goals. Americans join interest groups for various reasons. Some join for the information and benefits the groups offer. Many interest groups publish newsletters and host workshops and conferences for members. Some offer training that helps members qualify for higher-paying jobs.

All interest groups need both money and people, but they are organized and financed in many ways. Most interest groups have an elected board of directors or trustees who set policy and decide how the group’s resources will be used. Many groups have both national and state chapters, each led by their own boards or trustees. Funding methods vary among interest groups. Many economic and single-issue groups get most of their operating expenses from dues, membership fees, and direct mail fundraising campaigns. Some public interest groups get their primary funding from foundations or government grants.

1) Read Chapter 9 pp.277-287


Econ: Economic Goals

Economic Goals

A nation’s values and goals influence its choice of economic systems. The major economic and social goals used to evaluate the performance of an economic system are economic freedom, economic efficiency, economic equity, economic security, economic stability, and economic growth. We place a high value on economic freedom, which is the ability to make our own economic decisions without interference from the government. A society that values economic freedom gives individuals and businesses the right to make decisions about how to use their resources, without government intervention. An efficient economy makes the most of society’s resources. It delivers the goods, literally, by allocating resources in such a way that the greatest number of consumers get what they want with the least amount of waste. Because unemployed workers are a wasted resource, an efficient economy strives for full employment. A condition in which everyone who wants to work can find a job. Economic equity is the fairness with which an economy distributes its resources and wealth. People often disagree on questions of equity, which makes it a difficult goal to achieve. Economic growth is a condition in which an economy is expanding and producing more and better goods and services and is desirable because over time it leads to an improved standard of living. Every society has people who cannot provide for themselves. They may be too young, too old, too sick, or too poor  to meet all of their basic needs. A society that puts a high value on economic security seeks to provide its less fortunate members with the support they need in terms of food, shelter, and health care to live decently. This is another economic goal about which people often disagree.  No one likes economic uncertainty. Societies therefore strive for economic stability which is a condition in which the goods and services people count on are available when they want them. This includes that our jobs are there when we go to work each day and prices are predictable, allowing us to plan ahead for purchases. Most societies try to address some or all of the six economic goals. Most societies consider these goals when making economic choices. But societies differ in the degree of importance they attach to each goal. Sometimes progress toward one goal can be achieved only at the expense of another. Societies, like individuals, must weigh the tradeoffs and opportunity costs of pursuing any particular set of economic goals.

1) Chapter 3 Quiz – Friday 10/2


HGov: 60 Minutes Trump Interview


Decide what you are looking for in a candidate.
Candidates can be judged in two ways: the positions they take on issues and the leadership qualities and experience they would bring to the office. Your first step in picking a candidate is to decide the issues you care about and the qualities you want in a leader.

When you consider issues, think about community or national problems that you want people in government to address. Also consider what party the candidate belongs to and the typical stance the party takes on the issues.

When you consider leadership qualities, think about the characteristics you want in an effective leader. Do you look for intelligence, honesty, an ability to communicate?

Evaluate candidates’ stands on issues.
As you read the materials you collect, does the materials give you an overall impression of the candidates? What specific conclusions can you draw about the candidates’ stands on issues?

Learn about the candidates’ leadership abilities.
Deciding if a candidate will be a good leader is difficult. How can you know if someone will be honest, open or able to act under pressure if elected to office? Here are some ways to read between the lines as you evaluate the candidates’ leadership qualities:

  • Look at the candidates’ background and their experience. How prepared are they for the job?
  • Observe the candidates’ campaigns. Do they give speeches to different groups – even those groups that may disagree with the candidates’ views on issues? Do they accept invitations to debate? Do the campaigns emphasize media events, where the candidates can be seen but not heard? For instance, a candidate is seen cutting ribbons to open new bridges rather than talking about transportation. Review the campaign materials. Do campaign materials emphasis issues or image? Are they accurate?

Issues identified by students:
Taxes, national debt, offshoring, NAFTA, immigration, Syria & ISIL, Russia, Iraq & ISIL, North Korea & China, Congress, checks and balances, Constitutional law.

1) Study for Chapter 6-7 Quiz I – tomorrow 9/30


Econ: U.S. Economy

US Econ Pillars

Americans describe their economy as a free enterprise system. In a free enterprise system, individuals own the factors of production and make decisions about how to use those factors within the framework of the law.

Economic freedom is the essence of the U.S. economic system. This is the ability of individuals to act in their own best interest in free markets. This means they can buy what they want and from whom they want. If they do not like what one firm is selling, they can take their business elsewhere. They are free to start businesses or to seek any job they choose. Firms are free to make what they want, hire whomever they choose, and set their own wages and prices.

Competition means anyone can enter the market at any time and many rival sellers usually vie for customers’ business. Competition provides an incentive for businesses to create new and better products and ways of serving customers. For consumers, this means more goods and services to choose from. Competition also encourages producers to use their resources efficiently in order to lower costs.

Equal opportunity means that Americans are born equal in terms of their rights, freedoms, and the opportunity to make the best of their talents and abilities.

Binding contract is an agreement between a buyer and a seller and are used in all kinds of economic transactions. In a free enterprise system, people are free to decide what contracts they want to enter into, but once agreed on, a contract is binding. That means both sides have to fulfill their ends of the deal.

Property rights are the rights of those who own land, buildings, or other goods to use or dispose of them as they choose. It also provides for the protection of intellectual property by empowering Congress to enact patent and copyright laws.

If any one force could be said to drive a free enterprise system, it is the profit motive. Profit is the money earned by a business after subtracting its costs of operation. The desire to make a profit is known as the profit motive. The profit motive is closely tied to the incentives-matter principle. Profits are our incentive to work or start businesses in the hope of making money for ourselves.

The final key characteristic of a free enterprise system is a relatively limited role for government in the economy. In the United   States, the government does not try to control firms. Nor does it often compete with firms. Government intervention in the economy is generally limited to seven areas.

  • Protecting property rights and contracts. The government enforces laws that protect property owners and patent and copyright holders.
  • Promoting the general welfare. The government funds projects and programs that benefit society as a whole.
  • Preserving competition. The government enacts laws that protect and preserve a competitive marketplace.
  • Protecting consumers, workers, and the environment. The government requires businesses to ensure that their products do not harm consumers. It also imposes regulations on firms to promote workplace safety and reduce pollution.
  • Stabilizing the economy. The government works to keep the economy growing steadily rather than alternating between periods of growth and recession


HGov: Political Participation


Political participation is involvement in activities designed to influence public policy and leadership. A main issue of democratic government is the question of who participates in politics and how fully they participate. Popular participation in democratic elections is the essence of democracy. But in most elections, a majority of the American electorate stays away from the polls. Only in presidential elections does a majority usually turn out and usually a bare majority at that. When it comes to participation in ore demanding ways, far fewer people get involved.

The international difference is not hard to explain. In many ways the United States makes voting more costly than it is in other countries. Voting is the most widespread form of active political participation among Americans. Yet voter turnout is significantly lower in the United States than in other democratic nations. The requirement that Americans must personally register in order to establish their eligibility to vote is one reason for lower turnout among Americans. Other democracies place the burden of registration on government officials rather than on individual citizens. The fact that the United States holds frequent elections also discourages some citizens from voting regularly. Finally, the major American political parties, unlike many of those in Europe, do not clearly represent the interests of opposing economic classes. Therefore, the policy stakes in American elections are lower. Some Americans do not vote because they think that policy will not change greatly regardless of which party holds power.

Prospective voting is one way in which the people can exert influence on policy through their participation. It is the most demanding approach to voting; voters must develop their own policy preferences and then educate themselves about the candidates’ positions. Most voters are not well enough informed about the issues to respond in this way. Retrospective voting demands less from voters: they need only decide whether the government has been performing well in terms of the goals and values they hold. The evidence suggests that the electorate is, in fact, reasonably sensitive to past governmental performance, particularly in relation to economic prosperity.

1) Read Chapter 7 pp.213-227


Econ: Andersonville Economy


All society must develop an economic system to answer the basic economic questions. While we usually identify economic systems with a country (the United States has a market oriented system; the former Soviet Union had a command system), it is also possible to identify an economic system at a micro level. Students will examine how a group of civil war prisoners developed an economic system within their camp, a system designed to allocate scarce resources.

After our discussion, we read “Andersonville, What Really Happened.”  We read it, underlining those aspects of the Andersonville economy that reflect a command approach and circling those aspects that reflect a market approach. Finally we shared our ideas on the question: “Is it appropriate to label the Andersonville system as a market economy?” We learned that this economic system, like many economic systems, was a mixture of market and command economic systems.

1) Read Chapter 3.5 pp.50-53


HGov: Frames of Reference

frames-of-referenceThe ways in which citizens think politically provide clues about the way in which public opinion is likely to affect government. Government in a democratic system is expected to act more often in accordance with public opinion than against it.

The frames of reference that guide Americans’ opinions include cultural thinking. Americans embrace a common set of ideals. Principles such as liberty, equality, and individualism are a source of agreement, but have also meant somewhat different things to Americans. Ideological thinking describe how Americans think about politics. An ideology is a consistent pattern of political attitudes that stems from a core belief. However, most citizens do not have a strong and consistent ideological attachment. Nevertheless, ideological terms are a meaningful shorthand way to describe broad tendencies in political attitudes. Americans are categorized into four ideological types: liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and populists. For most citizens, groups are more important reference than ideology. Individuals develop opinions as a result of group orientations—notably, religion, income level, occupation, region, race, ethnicity, gender, and age. Although group loyalty can have a powerful impact on people’s opinion, this influence is diminished when identification with one group is offset by identification with other groups. In a pluralistic society such as the United States, groups tend to be crosscutting. Crosscutting cleavages tend to produce moderate opinions. In the everyday world of politics, no source of opinion more clearly divides Americans than that of their partisanship. Partisanship is a major source of political opinions; Republicans and Democrats differ in their voting behavior and views on many policy issues.