Final 2: Democracy

Introduction

Democracy is a form of government that promotes the respect for human rights. It presupposes that all people are involved in the state affairs. The term comes from the times of ancient Greece and means “simple people’s rule.” Originally, it appeared to protect the rights of the minorities from the tyranny of the majority. At present, officials are elected in most democratic states and this means that these states are republics. However, some European democratic countries such as the Scandinavian countries, Luxemburg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom remain constitutional monarchies. The Constitution sets clear limits to the monarch’s competences and duties and guarantees all basic rights as in any democratic country. Nevertheless, a queen or king is a formal head of the state. In this case, the monarchy can be considered to be a factor of stabilization rather than a threat to the democratic right. Thus, the issue of democracy in the modern world, and particularly in the U.S., remains controversial and should be studied in detail as its meaning has significantly changed since the time it appeared.

Prompt 1

The U.S. is not a democracy, but a democratic republic, or just a republic. Moreover, in the original sense of the term, the form of government that the US Constitution has established was never intended to be “democracy.” On the one hand, democracy presupposes the way that the people participate in the state affairs directly through meetings, ballot initiatives, and voting in referendums. On the other hand, a republic presupposes that the people choose representatives, who make all decisions on their behalf. Such representatives as Congressmen or Senators vote on behalf of the people, but on individual issues. In common use, the term “democracy” means a system of government when it gets its power from voters and is accountable to them for how this power is used. Votes are portioned in accordance with the size of the population in each state. In this case, the U.S. might be called a democratic country. However, when talking about the original meaning of “pure democracy,” the U.S. can be called a democracy only partially. It is true that many states allow the people to decide the policy questions directly through voting in referendums and ballot initiatives (referendums are referred or originate with the people by a legislative body of the state while initiatives are initiated by or originate with the people). Thus, despite the fact that the elements of democracy are present in the US system of government, it is more a republic than a democracy.

Limited government is a system of government that allows the people to determine what is necessary for them. Moreover, the intervention in citizens’ lives is possible only if it is allowed by law. In other words, there is the minimum of governmental intervention in personal liberties. The system of limited government stands in contrast to arbitrary governance that is provided by oligarchs, dictators, and kings. The US Constitution has established the Government of the United States as a limited institution with only certain powers available. Any extra powers can be added by the people’s will in the future if it is necessary. The US Constitution also puts limits on the branches of power, so that no branch can dominate the rest. Some examples of limited government include the restriction on the freedom of speech, prohibition of press and religion by the first amendment; division of power between local governments and a central government (different forces report to different institutions, yet they all serve the same common purpose). All branches prohibit each other from getting more power by the principle of checks and balances. Every branch has an ability to override the other branches, however, it does not have enough power to take control over the entire system.

In the U.S., the structure of government is much decentralized. The authority is divided among different levels and branches of government to prevent the potential possibility of concentrating power in any single branch of power. In this case, the decentralized American structure of government contrasts with the “majoritarian” democracy, where government should pursue policies in accordance with the interests of the majority of the people. The abovementioned principle of checks and balances is aimed at decentralizing the power in the US political system. The power of the government is limited by the U.S. Constitution in several ways. The government is prohibited from interfering directly with such key areas as association, expression, and conscience. Other actions are reserved to local and state governments, and, hence, are forbidden to the federal government. According to the Constitution, political powers in the U.S. are divided among three branches of government. Congress has all legislative powers, the President has the executive power, and the Supreme Court has the judicial power. Additionally, the Constitution provides the ability for each branch to check the other branches. For example, the President has the right to veto laws, adopted by Congress. However, Congress can pass a law over a veto by a two-thirds vote. Treaties can be negotiated only by the President, but to put them into effect, they should be approved by Congress. The Supreme Court can invalidate acts by the President and Congress if it judges that they conflict with the Constitution. The President names the Supreme Court justices and Congress determines its structure. The decentralization of governmental authority in the U.S. is contributed by this complex division of powers. The president can propose a governmental program, but it is Congress that enacts the law. After that, the Supreme Court can reject the law. Lawmaking is simpler with the parliamentary system, which is more a common practice around the countries of the world. In the U.S., it is a complicated process to enact the permanent law.

A “credit claim” or a bank loan is a pecuniary claim that arises out of an agreement when a credit institution grants credit as a loan. It became fully recognized in January 2007 as collateral for transactions with central banks. A credit claim is a form used to return money using the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Credit claims represent an additional way of securing interbank and central bank transactions and have a potential for secured lending transactions as possible collateral.

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The impression or “image” is a very important issue in modern politics, especially for a person who tries to win an election. The politician creates this image before the election race (for example, the crime fighter) to deliver his/her message to voters. However, this image often turns out to be false.

Without any specific interpretation, the abovementioned concepts cannot tell much about the state and health of our democracy. The U.S. is the state with a highly developed public policy and decentralized power where the politician image plays a key role in his/her future career. In addition, it is possible to state that the U.S. is a country of representative democracy that heads in the direction of Plutocracy where a society is ruled by the wealthiest people. Also, the U.S. has a developed banking system and market, which partly lives in debt (the presence of credit claims).

Prompt 2

Nowadays, in the U.S., the media can be considered to be the fourth branch of power. They can deliver a powerful political message against or on behalf of a political organization. Any liberal democracy has the independent media. It is a vital feature of its existence. If the state has the ability to control actions of the media, it means that it has an unacceptable level of influence over the actions of the people as well as the absence of any accountability. Therefore, it is difficult to underestimate the importance of the free media. The aim of the free news media in a liberal democracy is to provide people with impartial and accurate information so that they can respond and control the government. The media work as an effective check on the state influence and power over the people. Due to an unprecedented growth in the mass media accompanied by the falling costs of Internet services, satellite TV, and radio, information has become available to the wider audience. Also, this media boom has allowed different organizations from a broad political spectrum to reach their target audiences effectively and quickly. Many major organizations have started to provide a biased coverage such as virtual propaganda for various political parties ignoring the principles of impartial reporting. Certainly, there cannot be a single universal line of thought and some issues are subjective. However, these issues change the views of the society significantly. It would be difficult and counterproductive to enforce a perfectly neutral position and completely remove any political influence. After the emergence of the first radio and TV networks, the US and European governments forced the media to adopt a neutral position. In particular, in Europe, the major broadcast networks are nationalized by the state. The media today represent the views of certain segments of society; they do not just report the news. Since any given point will be opposed or supported by the government, it is possible to state that the media provide a healthy debate in the community. However, sometimes the media become the reason for the degradation of accurate political discourse. The emergence of media empires is a major concern in many liberal democracies. It means that a few individuals control vast amounts of the media and use them to influence the political views of the community. Thus, the media play an important role in the US politics. Although they cannot influence the people directly, they certainly have an impact on which issues people are exposed to, and hence, they can influence their decisions.

Agenda setting is a term from the field of the mass media. “Setting the agenda” is the process when the mass media create the public opinion, determining what the people should think or worry about. It means that if the event is covered prominently and frequently by the media, the people will consider the issue to be more important than the other. This phenomenon was first observed in the late 1920s. It was discovered that the media started influencing the creation of images in people’s minds. Hence, the people react to these images in their heads, not to actual events. Thus, the agenda setting process is the process of remodeling all the events that occur in the country to create a simpler model. It is made to prepare the society and allow the people to deal with it.

The well-known fact is that there is a huge difference between broadcast and print news. Broadcast news is news transmitted from a television or radio station. Printed news is usually distributed daily or weekly in the form of newspapers, magazines, journals or folded books. The TV news is visual news. It shows much more than it tells where it is appropriate. Television formats come with the exact visual effects the author deems necessary to effectively tell the story to viewers. In order to convey the same story in sound, more dialogs are necessary since there is a difference between writing for the eye and ear. The TV-radio communication is a one-to-one process as the individual viewer is at home and the presenter is in front of the camera or microphone. In this case, the viewer or listener does not have an opportunity to re-watch or re-read. On the contrary, print news like newspapers provides this opportunity. The print media allow indefinite exposures due to their static nature. It is a major advantage of the print news. The same viewer can return to the reading of the event several additional times. The messages provided by the broadcast media are fleeting. It is a major disadvantage and difference between the broadcast and print media. Messages go out of sound and sight after they are broadcast. Due to their structure, messages create a sustained and memorable impact, and their success is based on the number of the people, who actually see them over a given period of time.

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The Watergate scandal is an example of the effect of the news media on the US politics. It occurred after a break-in at Democratic National Headquarters by people, who worked indirectly for President Richard Nixon. It turned out that all participants were involved with Nixon’s administration. Nixon and his staff members tried to conceal the incident when the news of the break-in came out. It led to the hearings and the process of impeachment. As a result, Nixon resigned the presidency. The Watergate scandal is a major political scandal in the U.S. that drew widespread attention all over the world and became one of the main examples of how the news media could affect the American politics.

Conclusion

To summarize, democracy is one of the oldest forms of government in the world. Originally, it provided all the people with the opportunity to participate directly in the decision-making process of their country. The U.S. cannot be considered democracy; it is a republic since the whole political decision-making process is made by representatives chosen by citizens. It means that the people have no direct power. The US governmental structure is decentralized in accordance with the basic principle of checks and balances. Limited government is a system of government where the intervention in citizens’ lives is possible only after it is allowed by law. The U.S. has three branches of power such as Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. A credit claim is an additional way of securing interbank transactions when the institution grants credit in a form of a loan. The “image” of a politician is a very important issue in modern public politics. Usually, politicians create an image when they try to win the election race. At present, the news media have become the fourth branch of power. They allow controlling the other power institutions and informing the society about their activities to avoid the concentration of power in one of the branches. Setting the agenda is a mass media term that means creating the public opinion by shaping public attitudes to certain events. The difference between broadcast and print news is that broadcast news is transmitted via TV or radio while printed news comes in the form of newspapers, journals, magazines etc. The perfect example of the effect of the news media on the US politics is the Watergate scandal, which led to President Nixon’s resignation.

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