District Teacher Inservice




HGov: Interest Groups

Interest Groups3

Americans join all kinds of groups that reflect their interests. 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.


Econ: Rules and Incentives

Learning Target: Evaluate the underlying philosophies and characteristics of various economic systems, including that of the U.S. economy.

Today’s lesson demonstrated how rules and incentives influence people’s economic behavior. Incentives are actions, awards, or rewards that determine the choices people make. Incentives can be positive or negative. When incentives change, people change their behaviors in predictable ways. People cooperate and govern their actions through both written and unwritten rules that determine methods of allocating scarce resources. These rules determine what is produced, how it is produced, and for whom it is produced. As the rules change, so do individual choices, incentives, and behavior.


HGov: Influence of Voters

Voting is the most widespread form of active political participation. 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. Evidence suggests that the electorate is in fact reasonably sensitive to past governmental performance particularly in relation to economic prosperity.

Overall, Americans are only moderately involved in politics. While they are concerned with political affairs, they are mostly immersed in their private pursuits, a reflection in part of American culture’s emphasis on individualism. The lower level of participation among low-income citizens has particular significance in that it works to reduce their influence on public policy and leadership.


Econ: Circular Flow

Learning Target: Describe the “circular flow” of economic activity and the role of producers and consumers.

Circular Flow Earnig a Living
The Earn a Living activity helps us understand the relationship among consumers and producers. The economic relationship between households and businesses in often said to create a circular flow of economic activity. In a market economy, households are the owners of of resources and supply land, labor, and capital to businesses in exchange for income in the form of wages, rents, interest, and profits. Households then use their income to purchase finished goods and services supplied by businesses. Businesses then use the money from sales to pay resource owners for the services businesses receive by employing the resources. This relationship forms an interdependent economic system. The circular flow helps to explain and prove the assumption that voluntary trade creates wealth. It also shows how trade is influenced by the economic system in which people participate.


HGov: Voter Participation

Voter turnout is the proportion of the voting-age population that actually votes. Today, the United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts among the world’s established democracies. Low voter-turnout rates have fueled concern that Americans are becoming less connected to their communities and see less reason to get involved in politics.

In any given election, as many as two-thirds of all Americans who could vote do not do so. When asked, nonvoters offer a number of reasons for not going to the polls. Many say they are just too busy. Others cite illness or lack of interest. Political scientists who study voting point to three differences between voters and nonvoters: age, education, and income.

Age. The percentage of people voting varies among different age groups. Most voters are over the age of 30, and voting tends to increase with age. Once voters reach 75, however, turnout begins to decline, mostly due to ill health. The younger a person is, the less likely he or she is to vote.

Education. Voting also varies by level of education. Americans with college educations vote in much higher numbers than do high school dropouts.

Income. Voting also varies with income group. Middle-class and wealthy Americans are much more likely to vote than are those living in poverty. This difference may, in part, reflect the fact that income and education are closely intertwined. However, there may be other barriers to voting among the poor.


Econ: Earn a LIving

Learning Target: Describe the “circular flow” of economic activity and the role of producers and consumers.

Earning a Living
We participated in a simulation called Earning a Living. The activity helps us understand the relationship among households and business firms. In the simulation, households sell to business the resources it must have to produce a product. Households use the income they earned from selling resources to buy from business the goods and services their households requires. These goods and services are called ECONOS. You can satisfy all your household needs and desires by purchasing ECONOS, which are the products produced by business. Business firms supply to households the goods and services they desire, and to earn a profit in the process.