POLITICS & GOVERNMENT: THE ESSENTIALS
In Part One of this course, we have seen why and how individual members of a modern political society become interested and active participants in the political processes carried on within the society, why they seek to obtain political power, how they obtain it, and how and for what purposes they exercise it.
A person becomes active in politics in order to acquire and exercise political power. The individual who has become a political actor may seek political authority, or he may seek political influence. In endeavoring to obtain political authority--the formal-legal authority of government to make and enforce official decisions on public policy--the political actor seeks election or appointment to a major public office so that, by legal right, he can participate directly and personally in official governmental decisionmaking and action. In striving for political influence, the politically active individual (alone or in combination with others in an organized group), seeks to influence, condition, and shape the public-policy decisions and actions of government officeholders and institutions. Generally, persons actively seeking political influence in the same area of public policy--a policy area in which they have common interests and views--join together to form a political interest group and choose leaders (a leadership elite) under whose direction they pool political resources, generate joint political influence, and employ it to achieve their ends in the relevant policy area.
A political actor seeks political power--political authority or political influence--because he desires to shape and control the content and direction of public policy. He wishes to have a significant impact, individually or jointly with others, on the decisions that are made and carried out by the government and that are binding on all members of the political commu- nity. He seeks to take part in or influence the resolution of controversies over public questions--questions, or issues, regarding who in the society is to control the government and how and for what purposes the authority of government is to be employed.
The political actor's ultimate objective is to impact on governmental decisions and actions which affect him and others similarly situated. His objective is affect the authoritative de- cisions and actions of government in such manner as to ensure an authoritative allocation of resources and values that is favorable to and supportive of the political actor's own particular interests and/or is in accord with his perception of the public interest, i.e., the general interest, or common good, of the entire society, or community.
By now, the student should have a pretty good idea of what makes for political efficacy or inefficacy in a modern constitutional democracy--what makes the citizen politically effec- tive or ineffective, what enables the citizen to obtain desired results from the political processes carried on within society and what prevents him from doing so. The student should now have some very helpful clues as to why some individuals and groups within a constitutional democratic society, such as the U.S.A., Canada or Great Britain, seem to reap more of the benefits and rewards that result from governmental decisionmaking and action, while other individuals and groups within the same society appear to bear more of the costs and burdens associated with living in that society.
In concluding Part One, the student is urged to give serious consideration to the following question: In a modern political society with a constitutional democratic system of govern- ment, where the individual law-abiding adult citizen has the legal right to vote in free and meaningful elections for major officeholders in the government, become a candidate for election to government office, peaceably meet with others and form political organizations, publicly criticize the government's decisions and actions and otherwise actively but peacefully participate in political processes and compete for political power, does the individual citizen unnecessarily place himself at a distinct disadvantage by refusing or failing to develop a keen interest in politics and become politically active on a regular, longterm basis?