The American Government


College English


Government Writing Assignment


2/18/03


The governmental system in the United States is influenced by a number of inputs and factors that shape the outcome of political ideas and decisions. These inputs include public opinions, political parties, interest groups, and the influence of mass media. They influence the government directly as well as indirectly. All of these factors as well as many others shape the look of the government today.


One of the main issues that form governmental decisions in a democracy is the public opinion. In order to be eligible to run for an office in the government of the United States, the people or a representative thereof must elect one, and to achieve this task one must listen to and obey the public\'s opinion. Therefore, the theory of democracy is most purely applied through election on behalf of the public opinion. Lao-Tzu in his Thoughts from the Tao-te Ching said, “When the master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists. Next best is a leader who is loved. Next is one who is feared. The worst is one who is despised. If you don’t trust the people, you make them untrustworthy.” This means that a leader as well as the people must have the support and trust of each other in order to function as a working body. Without that a nation cannot sustain itself for very long.


(Lao-Tzu, pgs. 22-23, para. 4)


Another important factor in this system of government are the political parties. Parties enable the citizen living in a democratic society to establish a connection to governmental action and lead policy-making to his or her benefit or liking. Furthermore, a citizen can partake in society quite easily, since two party platforms indicate a parties goals and preferences. However, this democratic ideal does not always prevail. Parties can be influenced or even manipulated by people who contribute great amounts of funds to the party to have their own personal political wishes fulfilled which do not necessarily have to benefit society as a whole.


Interest groups account for an additional political factor in Washington. This political device provides a supplement to the citizens broad area of interests. Since the American people can only choose between two main parties, certain issues might not come to political debate. Interest groups fill this gap and thus withhold the theory of democracy. But \'Big Business\' has also found this device to help fulfill its political needs. Jean-Jacques Rousseau said in his The Origin of Civil Society, “A public decision which can enjoin obedience on all subjects of the Sovereign, cannot bind the sovereign in his dealings with himself.” This means that a leader cannot conflict with himself in making a decision for his people, which is why leaders should not make decisions based upon the monetary support of a group. Decisions should be based upon the impact and overall welfare they will provide for one’s country.


(Rousseau pg. 67, para. 45)


Mass media provides another \'input\' to this system of government. The media provides the people with information they need to be able to make sensible political decisions. In formation on election debates current poles help the public to stay in touch with the policy-makers in Washington. The media can also paint a very glorious as well as a very bleak picture for those already in office or for those running for office. Niccolo Machiavelli said in his The Qualities of the Prince, “Everyone sees what you seem to be, few perceive what you are, and those few do not dare contradict the opinion of the many who have the majesty of the state to defend them.” This means that people, for the most part, are going to depend on the media and the opinions of others in order to base their ideas on the government and those within the government. The media plays the biggest role in shaping the opinions of the masses in order to better itself. People must keep in mind that everything that they may hear from those in the media might not always be best the best of information. (Machiavelli pg. 47, para. 24)


All of these factors as well as many others shape the look of the government today. Public opinion is the way in which