Political Science 21

In Spring 2013, I took Poli Sci 21 at Pasadena City College with Dr. Frances Nyong.

The course taught me a lot. Below are the main topics addressed in the course, which I have split into two halves.

  1. In a liberal economic society, according to Abraham Lincoln, what is the principal role of government, and how did he define that kind of government?
  2. State the three major cores (essential points) of the ideology of liberalism and explain the economic core.
  3. Compare and contrast Garfinkle's definition of the American Dream based on negative liberty and the Dream based on full liberty, where negative liberty and affirmative liberty are in concert.
  4. In Constitutional terms, how can we know the American Dream?
  5. Using the Constitution, describe the nature of the Union Lincoln fought to maintain and the structure of government within it.
  6. Point out the main components of the American belief system that forms the foundation of the American Constitution.
  7. What is the Hamiltonianism upon which Henry Clay and Lincoln formed their understanding of the American System?
  8. What is the difference between economics and political economy?
  9. Define money and state its functions.
  10. What roles did Adam Smith assign to government in his view of society?
  11. Briefly explain these terms: natural liberty; laissez-faire; social Darwinism; invisible hand; aggregate demand.
  12. What is the difference between fiscal policy and monetary policy?
  13. Why do the Republicans insist on cutting taxes for the upper class? Will it work and why?
  14. Why has supply side economics not worked to ensure the general welfare?
  15. What is the Marxian view of the structure of the society?
  16. Why, in your thinking, did Marx choose the proletariat as the trustworthy group to usher in the end state of the evolutionary process?
  17. What problems are posed by the Marxist solution to the problems posed by capitalism as understood by the laissez-fairists?
  18. Briefly explain these terms: American Dream; Demand-side economics; New Deal; laissez-faire economics.
In a liberal economic society, according to Abraham Lincoln, what is the principal role of government, and how did he define that kind of government?

Abraham Lincoln's liberal economic society is of the people, by the people, for the people, as tidily summed up in his Gettysburg Address (1863). The government's principal role is to clear the path, which is the negative arm of liberty. Lincoln thus envisioned an activist government, but that did not dominate everyday life and take over all activities.

A liberal economic society makes full use of liberty's two prongs, negative and affirmative. As described above, the negative arm of liberty releases, clears paths, removes roadblocks (and, of course, builds roads and other essential infrastructure). The positive/affirmative arm of liberty empowers people to take that path. Thus, Lincoln envisioned unitarianism, not individualism, belied by the controversial idea that all humans are created equal.

(not yet interpolated) State the three major cores (essential points) of the ideology of liberalism and explain the economic core.

Liberalism has a moral core, a political core and an economic core. The moral core rests on: personal liberty; civil rights (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, right to privacy); and egalitarianism (social status). The political core deals with getting and using power, and rests on: popular sovereignty (personal/individual consent, the people must consent to be governed); representation (since not everyone can get together to voice their opinion, elected representatives are used); and constitutionalism (guidelines regarding these political principles). The economic core rests on: right to property; right of contract (US Constitution, Article 1 &section; 10, which bars the government from interfering with contracts); and accumulation of wealth.

Economic liberalism (collectivism) is in contrast to laissez-faire individualism. Economic liberalism is embodied in FDR's New Deal. Liberalism as an ideology was employed in the society as a whole. Liberalism was a negative idea, to liberate people from an oppressive, feudal, hierarchical society. A society of different levels with social status into which one was born. People were fighting against this feudal system. Feudal system has an absolute monarch, ruling by divine right. Then there was an aristocracy of nobles, believed to have an inherent capacity, talent, spirit, VIRTUE, to be good and do good. Then beneath the aristocracy were the serfs. This was the rigidly stratified society, with unequal levels and no change throughout one's lives. This was the feudal system.

Compare and contrast Garfinkle's definition of the American Dream based on negative liberty and the Dream based on full liberty, where negative liberty and affirmative liberty are in concert.
In Constitutional terms, how can we know the American Dream?

See here.

(not yet interpolated) Using the Constitution, describe the nature of the Union Lincoln fought to maintain and the structure of government within it.

The Constitution consists of the preamble, articles and amendments. The foundation of the American Constitution is the Declaration of Independence. The purpose of government is the protection of rights (inalienable rights); and the protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Its power comes from consent of the people; people agree to a social contract and exercise popular sovereignty. Also, people have the right to alter government.

Lincoln fought the Civil War to protect federalism, the federal structure as indicated by the constitution. Article Six gives the federal government supremacy over state governments. Federalism thus creates a strong national government presiding over subordinate state governments. As the Constitution defines, the national government has three branches, checked and balanced: the legislative branch, which is bicameral (House and Senate); the executive branch, led by the president (who presides over various departments); and the judicial branch, topped by the Supreme Court (which resolves legal conflicts by interpreting the Constitution).

(not yet interpolated) Point out the main components of the American belief system that forms the foundation of the American Constitution.

Self-evident truths, they are easily grasped, and they are in multiple -- not just a single truth. Further, these rights are not exhaustive. They had to later be elaborated. Purpose of government is to protect these rights. Equality. All humans are created equal. Right to life, right to liberty, right to pursuit of happiness. That suggests a capacity for knowledge. Popular consent, popular sovereignty. Also, people have the right to change/alter the government if the government violated these principles as embodied by the process of Constitutional amendments.

(not yet interpolated) What is the Hamiltonianism upon which Henry Clay and Lincoln formed their understanding of the American System?

Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists were the predecessors of Henry Clay and his Whig Party. Alexander Hamiltonian, champion of the United States Constitution, favored a strong central government to guide national economic development, especially industry. However, Hamilton distrusted majoritarianism and sought to check unfettered popular sovereignty. Clay advocated a strong union and federal government, with a nationalist stance concerned with the strength of the United States as a world power. By the mid-1820s, he summed up his program as the succinctly named American System. The Whigs focused on a national bank (for a stable financial system and currency), high tariffs (to protect domestic manufacturing) and federal infrastructure investment (financed by tariffs).

What is the difference between economics and political economy?
Define money and state its functions.
What roles did Adam Smith assign to government in his view of society?
Briefly explain these terms: natural liberty; laissez-faire; social Darwinism; invisible hand; aggregate demand.
Natural Liberty
Laissez-faire
Social Darwinism
Invisible hand
Aggregate demand
What is the difference between fiscal policy and monetary policy?

Fiscal policy is the policy of taxing and spending, for short. It occurs via tax policy and the budget. What is the reason for taxing people? Article I, section 8: Congress grants the power to lay and collect taxes/excises. Taxes are involuntary payments from one's own income, by which means the government extracts revenue. This revenue is used to finance spending/expenditure, including infrastructure and education. This is what the government was must do. The government must ensure freedom. What is freedom? Having the path cleared to be free, and to be empowered to be free. All people must be empowered. To be free is to be released from, freed from; it is the absence of biological, physical, psychological and monetary obstacles. It is also affirmative: the power, energy and confidence to be free. Also, government revenue is necessary for modernization. Society is always growing in experience, innovation, knowledge and numbers. Every society is always modernizing.

Fiscal policy takes and spends money from the taxpayer, while monetary policy controls the money's value. In the United States, the government agency overseeing monetary policy is the Federal Reserve. Monetary policy controls the amount of money in circulation, and the unit of measurement for the money's value. The value of what the government collects must be stable. Also, monetary policy ensures can be used toward collective benefit. Monetary policy ensures that the money you have, part of which is taken from you, is good and stable, and has the value that we need/want. The unit of measurement of the money's value must be stable, to provide certainty that tomorrow a dollar will be worth less. (History shows that this is important: for example, hyper-inflation in Germany brought about Hitler.) Means to accomplish monetary policy are via the exchange rate, storing and accounting.

Why do the Republicans insist on cutting taxes for the upper class? Will it work and why?

The Republican policy position is that the upper class has what it takes to produce what people want and thereby to grow and modernize the economy. Money kept in poor people's pockets will not be spent to produce and grow anything, but just on food and other consumption. This Republican view is in contrast to the Aristotelian idea that the middle class creates a buffer and provides prosperity for all, and that the middle class should thus be given a stake in society, and supported in its endeavor to reach the upper class.

Each generation that has thought that supporting the wealthy would bring abundance, has been proven wrong. This did not work because human nature and socialization have trained people to be greedy. Indeed, it is imperative to nurture both production and consumption: one may not exist without the other, and it is ludicrous to attribute just one as the nation's economic engine.

Why has supply side economics not worked to ensure the general welfare?

In our society, we think of the upper class as suppliers through business and corporate activity. This supply-side era specifically began under President Reagan, when Keynesian demand-side economics was turned over. Supply-side policies work for the welfare of the few -- not the general welfare -- through loans, depreciation (deductions) and outright tax cuts whereby corporations and the upper class pay little or no taxes.

Examining history and the present day, supply-side economics does not work. The savings accumulated by the wealthy did not clean up skid row. The money did not benefit all, and if anything its concentration (as Marx predicted) harmed many people.

What is the Marxian view of the structure of the society?

Marx said that society, the human group, is founded/rooted on economics. Economics is the production and distribution of wealth. Therefore, wealth is the foundation of every human society. Marx described this as the material force of production, and from this arises the social relations of production. Human relationships enable the production of wealth to continue. Marx viewed all people as falling into either proletariat (have-not) or bourgeoisie (have). The relationship between the haves and the have-nots drains the proletariat. The proletariat are necessary: they provide the labor and enable the surplus to be produced. But from this surplus, very little is given to the workers -- just enough to keep their body and soul together. They don't get enough to become owners, or haves. They still remain have-nots.

The bourgeoisie maintain control of surplus by controlling society's institutions, rules, values, principles and religion. These are instruments of socialization for misguiding brainwashing the workers and instilling what Marx called false consciousness. Marx said that economics changed society: the relationship between haves and havenots.

Why, in your thinking, did Marx choose the proletariat as the trustworthy group to usher in the end state of the evolutionary process?

Those who have very little are given responsibility by Marx, because embedded in them is true humanity. Like Rousseau, Marx believed that human beings were born free. When people are in chains, it must be because of society. But chains and suffering are not a good lot for man. Marx believed that if we rediscover our good nature that this will be the basis of communism, which is the end state of society's evolution.

Unlike the bourgeoisie, wealth has not blinded the proletariat to the kind, sharing and cooperative nature of human beings. Their experience will cause them to rise up and create institutions which are completely different and reflect the true nature of man. These people will not want to make a change that will punish others with same pain they experienced.

The bourgeoisie will not want to change because and risk losing their privilege. The bourgeoisie recognize they are not unlimited in wisdom and strength, so fearing that what they have is taken away they will resist. The too-big-too-fail fiasco whereby the wealthiest held society at ransom, is an example of why the wealthiest are not to be trusted.

What problems are posed by capitalism as understood by the laissez-fairists?
What problems are posed by the Marxist solution to these?

Capitalist systems use human capital to generate goods and wealth. All capitalist systems share the problem of inequality and exploitation. There are many different kinds of capitalism, and laissez-faire capitalism emphasizes the entrepreneurial, self-made individual. However, the problem with laissez faire is that we need each other. Individuals do not do things individually; they are part of a network. Every laissez-faire capitalist relies upon a network of people, from infrastructure to communication to power to water to loans. There is a dependence on something existing or which will be needed. Thus, in practical real terms there is no laissez-faire.

Marx (and Rousseaux) assumed that humans are totally angelic creatures at birth. Marx said that replacing bourgeoisie institutions with proletariat institutions will generate a communist end state cleansed of oppression. Those exploited in this system -- the have-nots, the proletariat -- are shoved in. Some capitalist systems make it impossible for the proletariat to even grow their own food. They are robbed of their independence. They must sell their own labor to survive. Those who benefit from this system are the bourgeoisie, who have a false consciousness that they are individual individualists, even when they extract from the proletariat.

The biggest challenge to revolutionary Marxism is persuading the proletariat to unite and rise at the same time. The masses lack immediate monetary and institutional power, and have doubts about being able to enact revolution especially when oppressed by a cruel elite worried about losing its position. The proletariat are a majority and the elite are a small group, but the proletariat are afraid after lacking power for so long. Most proletariat -- and even some elites -- must be convinced of the efficacy of the approach, and that when things change their conditions will improve. Machiavelli, long before Marx, recognized this: when you try to transform society, there are doubts even among those who are oppressed that things will be better for them in their new situation.

There must be a front group that is well persuaded and trained to mobilize the masses, since it takes a while to discard old habits traditions and alliance and move into new situation that will be Uncomfortable to a lot of people. It takes a while to bring a new system into place. Humans always connect to real and present things, not the abstract and the tomorrow. Humans in the United States believe in individualism and individual liberty, but there must be a certain amount of group consciousness. Like Katrina and nine eleven, everyone pulled together, but can they ordinarily be mobilized to cooperate and make sacrifices to make changes.

The most devastating problem with a Marxist revolution is violence and healing. Violence and murder are inherently a reign of terror where radicalism predominates. What can this solve? While violence and radicalism may be necessary at one time, the impact destabilizes all that follows. Even an essential and perfect surgery will cause pain, and one's body might not be the same afterward. A dead relative is not just finished; they become a source of pain and hurt felt by all their relatives. That is why Marxist revolutions have tried to replace blood relations with comrades.

Marxist revolutions must also quickly establish a new system that is effective for everyone, lest the revolution go to waste. This was the problem that the American Revolution faced when Daniel Shays' rebellion threatened the new government; the problem was addressed by the drafting of a new constitution.

Also, at the heart of Marxist revolutionary thought is an integral problem: humanity. Imperfection of knowledge. Humans lack a complete, total understanding of human nature. It is impossible to totally understand ourselves and others, and without that understanding it is impossible to craft a perfect society that includes every human being. The bourgeoisie may not be trusted, but nor can the proletariat be trusted. The Marxian solution is inherently imperfect.

Briefly explain these terms: American Dream; Demand-side economics; New Deal; laissez-faire economics.
American Dream
Demand-side economics
New Dealto stimulate economy and get people back to work, continues today despite being weakened. It includes Social Security etc.
Laissez-faire economyIdea taken from French language meaning 'leave/let alone' where economy is governed by separate self-interets without involvmenent from community.
Social Darwinismsurvival of the fittest
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