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Political Science Chapt. 1


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Subdivision of some government departments that confers on its occupant’s specific authority and responsibilities
Public goods or bad generated as a byproduct of private activity. Air pollution is an example (public bad) because it is, in part, the byproduct of the private activity of driving a car
An alliance of unlike-minded individuals or groups to achieve some common purpose such as lobbying, legislating, or campaigning for the election of public officials
The process through which individuals and groups reach agreement on a course of common, or collective, action-even as they may continue to disagree on the goals that action is intended to achieve
The institutions and procedures through which people are ruled
Agency Loss
The discrepancy between what citizens ideally would like their agents to do and how the agents actually behave
Conformity Costs
The difference between what a person ideally would prefer and what the group with which that person makes collective decisions actually does. Individuals pay conformity costs whenever collective decisions produce policy outcomes that do not best serve their interests
The act of one person or body authorizing another person or body to perform an action on its behalf. For example, Congress often delegates authority to the president or administrative agencies to decide the details of policy
Prisoner’s dilemma
A situation in which two (or more) actors cannot agree to cooperate for fear that the other will find its interest best served by reneging on an agreement
Focal point
Focus identified by participants when coordinating their energies to achieve a common purpose
Free-rider problem
A situation in which individuals can receive the benefits from a collective activity whether or not they helped to pay for it, leaving them with no incentive to contribute
A form of negotiation in which two or more parties who disagree propose exchanges and concessions find a course of acceptable collective action
A form of negotiation in which two or more parties who disagree propose exchanges and concessions find a course of acceptable collective action
Someone who makes and implements decisions on behalf of someone else
A form of democracy in which power is vested in elected representatives
The right to make and implement a decision
An officeholder’s actual influence with other officeholders, and, as a consequence, over the government’s actions
Simple Majority
A majority of fifty percent plus one
The act of organizing a group to achieve a common goal. It remains a prerequisite for effective collective action even after the disincentives to individual participation (that is, prisoner’s dilemma problems) have been solved
Prevents a common resource from being over-exploited by tying the benefit of its consumption to its cost
Settlement in which each side concedes some of its preferences in order to secure others
Direct Democracy
A system of government in which citizens make policy decisions by voting on legislation themselves rather than by delegating that authority to their representatives
Representative Government
A political system in which citizens select government officials who, acting as their agents, deliberate and commit the citizenry to a course of collective action
A vote in which the winning candidate receives the greatest number of votes (but not necessarily a majority--over 50 percent)
Public Goods
Goods that is collectively produced and freely available for anyone’s consumption
Collective Goods
Goods that are collectively produced and freely available for anyone’s consumption
The set of rules and procedures these institutions must (and must not) follow to reach and enforce collective agreements
Separation of Powers
The distribution of government powers among several political institutions. In the United States, at the national level power is divided between the three branches: Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court
Majority rule
The principle that decisions should reflect the preferences of more than half of those voting. Decision making this way is one of the fundamental procedures of democracy
An individual with the authority to make some decision. This authority may be delegated to an agent who is supposed to act on the principal’s behalf
Private goods
Benefits and services over which the owner has full control of their use
Collective Action
An action taken by a group of like-minded individuals to achieve a common goal
Tragedy of the Commons
A situation in which group members overexploit a common resource, causing its destruction
Parliamentary Government
A form of government in which the chief executive is chosen by the majority party or by a coalition of parties in the legislature
In a democracy, an organization that manages potential conflicts between political rivals, helps then to find mutually acceptable solutions, and makes and enforces the society’s collective agreements. Among the prominent federal political institutions in the United States are Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court
Elected professional who specializes in providing compelling reasons for people with different values and interests to join in a common action
Individual choices, reflecting economic situation, religious values, ethnic identity, or other valued interests
Transaction Costs
The costs of doing political business reflected in the time and effort required to compare preferences and negotiate compromises in making collective decisions
A form of government in which the ruling power exploits its authority and permits little popular control

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