an ongoing organization that performs certain functions for society.
the ability to influence the behavior of others, usually through the use of force, persuasion, or rewards.
A form of autocracy in which a king, queen, emperor, empress, tsar, or tsarina is the highest authority in the government. Monarchs usually obtain their power through inheritance.
Essentially, a representative democracy in which there is no king or queen and the people are sovereign.
A set of political beliefs that include the advocacy of active government, including government intervention to improve the welfare of individuals and to protect civil rights.
A voluntary agreement among individuals to create a government and to give that government adequate power to secure the mutual protection and welfare of all individuals.
The freedom of individuals to believe, act, and express themselves as they choose so long as doing so does not infringe on the rights of other individuals in the society.
Generally, a system of political ideas that are rooted in religious or philosophical beliefs concerning human nature, society, and government.
The individuals and institutions that make society’s rules and possess the power and authority to enforce those rules.
A concept that holds, at a minimum, that all people are entitled to equal protection under the law.
A system of government in which political decisions are made by the people themselves rather than by elected representatives. This form of government was practiced in some parts of ancient Greece.
An ideological movement that arose in the 1950s and 1960s and continues to shape conservative beliefs.
Disagreements among people in a society over what the society’s priorities should be.
An alternative, more popular term for the set of political beliefs also known as liberalism.
The belief that government should do as little as possible, not only in the economic sphere, but also in regulating morality and personal behavior.
Tea Party Movement
A grassroots conservative movement that arose in 2009 after Barack Obama became president. The movement opposes big government and current levels of taxation, and also rejects political compromise.
Essential services that individuals cannot provide for themselves, such as building and maintaining roads, establishing welfare programs, operating public schools, and preserving national parks.
A form of government in which the power and authority of the government are in the hands of a single person.
A set of political beliefs that include a limited role for the national government in helping individuals and in the economic affairs of the nation, as well as support for traditional values and lifestyles.
A political ideology that lies to the left of liberalism on the traditional political spectrum. Socialists are scarce in the United States but common in many other countries.
A form of government based on the principle that the powers of government should be clearly limited either through a written document or through wide public understanding. It is characterized by institutional checks to ensure that government serves public rather than private interests.
The process of resolving conflicts over how society should use its scarce resources and who should receive various benefits, such as public health care and public higher education.
The name of the national legislative body in countries governed by a parliamentary system, such as Britain and Canada.
A form of government in which absolute power is exercised by an individual or group whose power is not supported by tradition.
The ability to legitimately exercise power, such as the power to make and enforce laws.
Persons whose views fall in the middle of the political spectrum.
Rights that are not bestowed by governments but are inherent within every man, woman, and child by virtue of the fact that he or she is a human being.
divine rights theory
The theory that a monarch’s right to rule was derived directly from God rather than from the consent of the people.
An economic system based on the private ownership of wealth-producing property, free markets, and freedom of contract. The privately owned corporation is the preeminent capitalist institution.
The set of ideas, values, and attitudes about government and the political process held by a community or a nation.
A system of government in which the people have ultimate political authority. The word is derived from the Greek demos (“the people”) and kratia (“rule”).
A form of democracy in which the will of the majority is expressed through groups of individuals elected by the people to act as their representatives.
Second Continental Congress
The congress of the colonies that met in 1775 to assume the powers of a central government and to establish an army.
The convention of delegates from the states that was held in Philadelphia in 1787 for the purpose of amending the Articles of Confederation. In fact, the delegates wrote a new constitution (the U.S. Constitution) that established a federal form of government.
A compromise reached during the Constitutional Convention by which three-fifths of all slaves were to be counted for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives.
Trade that involves more than one state.
checks and balances
A major principle of American government in which each of the three branches is given the means to check (to restrain or balance) the actions of the others.
rule of law
a basic principle of government that requires those who govern to act in accordance with established law.
A document drawn up by Pilgrim leaders in 1620 on the ship Mayflower. The document stated that laws were to be made for the general good of the people.
A political group that opposed the adoption of the Constitution.
A rebellion of angry farmers in western Massachusetts in 1786, led by former Revoluntionary War captain Daniel Shays.
A political group, led by Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, that supported the adoption of the Constitution and the creation of a federal form of government.
A group of persons forming a cohesive minority.
Bill of Rights
The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. They list the freedoms-such as the freedoms of speech, press, and religion-that a citizen enjoys and that cannot be infringed on by the government.
A form of government that provides for a division of powers between a central government and several regional governments.
Articles of Confederation
The nation's first national constitution, which established a national form of government following the American Revolution. The Articles provided for a confederal form of government in which the central government had few powers.
A constitutional power that enables the chief executive (president or governor) to reject legislation and return it to the legislature with reasons for the rejection. This either prevents or delays the bill from becoming law.
separation of powers
The principle of dividing governmental powers among the legislative, the executive, and the judicial branches of government.
A plan for a bicameral legislature in which one chamber would be based on population and the other chamber would represent each state equally. The plan was also known as the Connecticut Compromise.
The model of government devised by James Madison, in which the powers of the government are separated into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial.
A league of independent states that are united only for the purpose of achieving common goals.
The clause in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce (commerce involving more than one state).
bicameral (two-chamber) legislature
A legislature made up of two chambers, or parts.
unicameral (one-chamber) legislatures
A legislature with only one chamber.
First Continental Congress
A gathering of delegates from twelve of the thirteen colonies, held in 1774 to protest the Coercive Acts.
The arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power by an oppressive individual or government.