Gov: Why Study Government

Knowing about government is important for many different reasons. In a democracy like the United States, all citizens have an equal right to participate in politics, and many do so by voting in elections. It is important for voters to be informed about the issues and candidates that affect their everyday lives. This means that you are not just going to make your voting decision on a speech or television program that you see. You are going to be able to have a clear understanding of the different policies which are in place and you can compare one party to another, ensuring you make the right decision for you. Learning about government provides a foundation for making informed choices in elections.

There are many different reasons why we study government and it is mainly to have a clear understanding of how things operate and to ensure that improvements can be made in the future. It gives us the knowledge and puts us in a position to know more about the ins and outs of government. Learning about government ensures that we can make a difference and can control the future of our country, including political movements and government decision making.

Government serves many purposes. Among the most important are maintaining public order, protecting life and property, and providing public goods. Living in violent times, Hobbes and Locke emphasized the need for government to preserve order and protect people’s lives and property. Without such protection, people would be condemned to live in fear and danger of death. Governments are equally concerned with providing a wide range of public goods to their citizens. Public goods have two key characteristics. First, more than one person can consume them without reducing the amount available to others. Second, once a public good is made available, all people have the right to use it. Consider streetlamps. If you walk under a streetlamp, you do not reduce the ability of others to use its light. After being installed, a streetlamp shines its light on everyone.

Governments throughout history have had two key powers that are essential for providing protection and public goods. These two building blocks of government are a means of coercion and a means of collecting revenue. Coercion refers to the various ways in which government can use its power to force citizens to behave in certain ways. This includes the police, the courts, and the prison system. Governments use the threat of arrest and punishment to maintain public order and keep people secure in their homes and in public spaces. The second building block is a means of collecting revenue. All governments need money to provide security and pay for public goods. They generally get that money from the people they govern or control through taxation.

1) Read Chapter 2.1-2.9 pp.19-29



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