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Chris Basista

College English
Prof. Harding
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.

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(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 people can change the
outlook of the government through mass support of an idea. Political
parties are the way in which regular people can connect to the government
through the words and actions of someone else. Interest groups and mass
media account for both the support for those in political power and the
approval or disapproval of those in power by the public. These are the
characteristics of just the United States, imagine what the impact would be
if these same characteristics would be implemented into governments all
over the world?
Source Material
1. Lao-Tzu. Thoughts From The Tao-te Ching.

Excerpt from Jacobus, Lee A. A World of Ideas, Essential
Readings for College Writers, 6th Edition. Pgs. 22-23. ( 2002
Bedford/St. Martins Press. Boston, MA 02116.

2. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Origin of Civil Society.

Excerpt from Jacobus, Lee A. A World of Ideas, Essential
Readings for College Writers, 6th Edition. Pg. 67. ( 2002
Bedford/St. Martins Press. Boston, MA 02116.

3. Machiavelli, Niccolo.The Qualities of the Prince.

Excerpt from Jacobus, Lee A. A World of Ideas, Essential
Readings for College Writers, 6th Edition. Pg. 47. ( 2002
Bedford/St. Martins Press. Boston, MA 02116.

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