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Assignment Questions

Introduction to America’s Government

Paper Topics
ag paper topic hunter.doc (26 Kb)

Term Paper Topic – Intro to American Government

An outline for the paper will be faxed

Congress is working on a plan to privatize social security. An opinion poll asks a question to the American public: “As you may know, the United States congress is voting soon on a bill that would privatize social security. Do you support this idea or not?” Here are the poll results:

Yes, privatize social security: 65%

No, keep social security a government-run program: 25%

No Opinion: 10%

Senior citizens (people over 65 years old) are a small minority in the population of the United States (13%). They voice an overwhelming opinion that social security should not be privatized. Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of people under 65 said that it should be privatized. Thus, we have here a minority opinion which is probably more interested in this subject and stronger in their opinions because most of them are currently receiving social security. You also have a majority opinion that is probably less interested because they will not be receiving social security until later in life.

Now let’s say that the bill to privatize social security has been passed by congress. You are a second-term president of the United States in the final year of your presidency (so you don’t have to face reelection, giving you complete freedom to make independent decisions). As president, you have the legal power to sign this bill into law as well as the power to veto the bill. What will you do?

For your paper, you should do the following:

Analyze the content of the poll results based on what we’ve discussed about public opinion and the modern technique of public opinion polling. How meaningful are these results?
As an analyst of democracy, decide whether you would base your decision largely on the poll, whether you would largely ignore the poll, or whether you would fall somewhere in the middle, and why.
For your answer on the second question, discuss what type of representation you are providing for your constituents on this issue as president. Are you a trustee representative, a delegate representative, or even something else? Based on your views on democracy, do you make a pluralist, republican, or elitist decision?
Discuss whether there any types of issues for which you would make the opposite decision. Why or why not?

On this policy issue, there are some very specific details that any president would have to take into consideration if she or he were to make a wise, independent decision for the long-term good of the country. But you should not focus on the specific real world consequences of privatization of social security. The issue here is democracy and public opinion. So focus your analysis on questions of majority rule vs. minority rule. Focus on the degree to which “the people” should have a say in policy-making (i.e. how democratic we should be based how competent the people are). Generally, who, if anyone, should have the most influence in the governing process?

key words and concepts you should consider: elitism, low-information rationality, democratic values, problems with public opinion polls, trustee, delegate, power, legitimacy, tyranny of the majority, tyranny of the minority, and others

There are faxes for this order.

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