Friday, November 16, 2012


So my students in my PS 101 class don't look like this during finals week ...

... below I am providing a set of links to some of the topics that I have discussed in lecture. These links should not be interpreted as providing all the information needed for each of the questions asked in the final. They are simply links to topics that are not in the book or are issues students have asked about during class and office hours. 

Questions for the mid-terms are listed below. 



Liberal Republic / Liberal Revolution. Look here under "Three Intertwined Developments" for the historical forces and intellectual roots behind our political and economic system. Then use them to help explain the Liberal Revolution, and how they provide the base for the ideas behind our Constitution.

Federal Imperative / California: Creating access points and dispersing power lies at the heart of the federal principle in America. This post on fiscal federalism outlines how the U.S. works to achieve these goals by shifting and redistributing wealth. As part of our larger discussion on California in the federal system we discussed budget issues and the recall of former Gov. Gray Davis, which is discussed here.

Civil Liberties / Civil Rights: The long march to equality under the law involved challenging stereotypes that were supported by junk science and confronting issues tied to blacks, women, and labor, among other issues. Some of the issues that we discussed in class can be found here, in last 2/3 of this post.


From Civil Liberties to Civil Rights: The long march to equality involved issues tied to blacks, women, labor laws, the influence of junk science (which justified social stereotypes), etc. It's all discussed here in the last 2/3 of this post."

* Courts and/or American Presidency: Here's the link to help with the FISA courts.

The Presidency: Do we have an emerging American Caesar? This op-ed review several issues tied to the American presidency that we discussed in class. These two  posts discuss signing statements.

Congress: Why is it that many members of Congress appear overwhelmed and uninformed? Why do they appear to talk at each other instead of with each other? Apart from issues tied to redistricting and campaign costs, this post on the Bell Experiment ties into our lecture on post-industrialandia and semi-democracy in America.

* Political Parties: Here's a link I have used in previous class lectures to help explain the evolution of political parties in America.

The links listed above address all of the questions that will be in Part I of the Final Exam.


Economic Policy Making: This link helps us understand how market actually work in America, and why economic policy making is so important. The following links discuss the role of  fiscal policy and regulatory policy in America. This post discusses how America's redistributes wealth (i.e. fiscal federalism), while this post discusses how America has consistently worked to bailout and subsidize the market.

* Social Security: For the question on social security, apart from your notes you might want to look at this, this, and this. For a discussion on COLAs (cost of living allowances), "hedonics," and our efforts to "save" social security see this (under "Boskin Commission").

Good luck, and work hard.
- Mark

Questions from Exam #1 ...

In class we discussed the historical forces and intellectual roots behind our political and economic system. Discuss these forces. Specifically, how does the political and economic system of our liberal republic contrast with feudal patterns of governance and economic production? How do the Articles of Confederation and the Federalist Papers (#10 and #51) help us understand our Constitution and the type of government we have today? If someone were to ask you what a “liberal republic” is, using the United States as an example, how would you respond? Finally, did America create a genuine democracy after 1776, or did democracy in America arrive later? Explain.

2. the Federal imperative in america (and California)
Two parts ... Part I: In class I argued that history and a keen understanding of the human condition helped shape the Founders decision to create a federal system of government. Discuss these developments and explain how they help us understand the roots of the American Constitution and our federal system? Where do the Federalist Papers fit here? How do Marbury v. Madison (1803) and McCulloch v. Maryland help (1819) us understand the pecking order behind our Federal-State relations? How does our discussion on wealth redistribution help us understand the federal principle? Part II: From the readings, and our class discussion, explain how California’s political system differs from the federal government. Specifically, what can states do that the federal government can not? Why did the Founders create these differences? As well, we reviewed the political and economic factors behind the recall of Governor Davis. Explain the dynamics behind the recall of Governor Davis. Was the recall necessary? Explain.

3. From Civil Liberties to Civil Rights
Two parts … Part I: What are the fundamental differences between Civil Liberties (CL) and Civil Rights (CR). What does the Bill of Rights tell us about our history and the concerns of the Founders of this nation? In your view, was the Bill of Rights necessary? Explain. Part II: Drawing from the text and lecture, outline the long march toward Civil Rights in the United States. Why were women so instrumental to the Civil Rights movement? Drawing from lecture, and from our discussion on “Junk Scholars/Junk Science” explain why the Civil Rights movement in the 19th century experienced an entirely different outcome than the Civil Rights movement in the 20th century. Did the Civil Rights movement in the 20th century accomplish its goals, or is it an on-going work in progress in America? Explain.

Questions from Exam #2 ...

1. The Courts
A two part question. Part I: In class and from the readings we learned about the history behind our national judiciary system. Why do we have a court system? Drawing from the text, how does habeus corpus and judicial review help shape America’s political and legal systems? What’s the difference between criminal and civil law, and how does this distinction help us understand our legal system? With reference to the Constitution and the Judiciary Act, explain the history and structure of America’s national judicial system. How does the FISA court system fit into our legal system? Part II: How does the “strict constructionist / original intent” vs. “judicial activism” debate help us (or not help us) understand the Supreme Court and our system of justice? Does the documentary Super Chief: The Life and Legacy of Earl Warren help us understand this debate? How so? In your view, what personal experiences contributed to the decisions Earl Warren made while he was Chief Justice? Between the strict constructionist and judicial activist positions, which perspective best represents how judges should act while on the bench? Explain.

2. Congress … How it (Really) Works
In the course text, there is a discussion of “how a bill becomes law.” Very briefly (no more than one page) discuss the textbook version of how a bill becomes. In class we discussed how, in spite of how a bill is supposed to become law, why Congress does not or can not do the work of the people. Specifically, I asked whether Congress can really represent the will of the people when both the members of Congress and “the people” are so distracted and overwhelmed with the challenges of every day life that policy discussions and political debate are distorted. The end result is that semi-democracy and hyper-democracy have become hallmarks of American politics and how Congress actually works. Explain what this means. Has the promises of democracy in America been altered in the process? How so? Finally, drawing from your in class experience with redistricting explain how the process of redistricting impacts democracy in America.  Does redistricting strengthen or cheapen the democratic experience in America? Explain. Finally, when we contrast what modern politicians say and what you have learned in class about the U.S. Congress, does the United States have the best democracy in America? Explain.

3. The Presidency
In class we discussed the formal and informal powers of the president. What are these powers? How do they help us understand the office of the president? Drawing from lecture and the readings, who were some of the early “powerful” presidents and what factors contributed to them being able to stand out as powerful presidents? Discuss the historical factors that helped transform the power of the executive branch over time. Specifically, how did the Civil War, industrialization, the Depression, and WWII affect the office of the president? Finally, from Watergate through 9/11 we have seen the power of the presidency increase in many ways. How have the powers of the executive branch evolved from the last quarter of the 20th century into the beginning of the 21st century? Are we seeing the creation of an “American Caesar”? Explain.

A two part question. Part I: In 1922 Walter Lippmann argued that research in public opinion was far too limited, especially given its importance to politics in America. Drawing from early attempts at gauging public opinion, why did Walter Lippmann make this assertion? How does the Literary Digest experience help us understand why early attempts at monitoring public opinion didn’t always measure up? How does the Literary Digest experience, and George Gallup, help understand the importance of conducting scientific polls? What type of polls do we have, and how can we be sure of their integrity? Part II: What constitutes the media today, and how does it differ from 60 years ago? Does the media shape public opinion? How so? Are we better off with so many sources of news today? Explain. Did the Stephen Colbert clip we played in class help you understand the role the role of  polls in modern American politics? How so? In your view, is the media biased, or do we have only a few biased sources? Explain.

After briefly discussing what Federalist #10 said about “factions” discuss how the logic behind factions applies to political parties today. In the text the evolution of political parties is discussed. After discussing what parties do in America, explain the early ideological roots of the republican and democratic parties? How did party politics evolve from the late 18th century through the Civil War and New Deal Coalition? What led to the break up of the New Deal Coalition and the rise of the Reagan Revolution? How does the Modern Era compare to the Golden Age of party politics? Which social groups in America today tend to identify with each major party and why? Finally, what role do third parties play in American politics?

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