AP Government (Government in America) Chapters 1-3


The institutions and processes through which public policies are made for a society.

Two fundamental questions about governing

How should we govern?
What should the government do?

Public Goods

Goods, such as clear air and clean water, that everyone must share.

5 functions of government

Maintain a national defense, provide public services, preserve order, socialize the young, and collect taxes


The process by which we select our governmental leaders and what policies these leaders pursue. It produces authoritative decisions about public issues.

Political participation

All the activities used by citizens to influence the selection of political leaders or the policies they pursue. Voting is the most common but not the only means in a democracy. Other means include protest and civil disobedience.

Single-issue groups

Groups that have a narrow interest, tend to dislike compromise, and often draw membership from people new to politics.

Policymaking system

The process by which policy comes into being and evolves over time. People's interests, concerns, and problems create political issues for government policymakers.

Linkage institutions

The political channels through which people's concerns become political issues on the policy agenda. In the U.S., some examples are elections, political parties, interest groups, and the media.

Policy agenda

The issues that attract the serious attention of public officials and other people actually involved in politics at any given point in time.

Political issue

An issue that arises when people disagree about a problem and how to fix it.

Policymaking institutions

The branches of government charged with taking action on political issues. The U.S. Constitution established three policymaking institutions-the congress, the presidency, and the courts. Today, the power of the bureaucracy is so great that most political

Public policy

A choice that government makes in response to a political issue. A policy is a course of action taken with regard to some problem.

Policy impacts

The effects a policy has on people and problems. Impacts are analyzed to see how well a policy has met its goal and at what cost.


A system of selecting policymakers and of organizing government so that policy represents and responds to the public's preferences.

The 5 criteria for an ideal democratic process

Equality in voting, effective participation, enlightened understanding, citizen control of the agenda, and inclusion. This was suggested by Robert Dahl.

Majority rule

A fundamental principle of traditional democratic theory. in a democracy, choosing among alternatives requires that the majority's desire be respected.

Minority rights

A principle of traditional democratic theory that guarantees rights to those who do not belong to majorities and allows that they might join majorities through persuasion and reasoned argument.


A basic principle of traditional democratic theory that describes the relationship between the few leaders and the many followers.

Pluralist theory

A theory of government and politics emphasizing that politics is mainly a competition among groups, each one pressing for its own preferred policies.

Elite and class theory

A theory of government and politics contending that societies are divided along class lines and that an upper-class elite will rule, regardless of the formal niceties of governmental organization.


A theory of government and politics contending that groups are so strong that government is weakened; an extreme, exaggerated, or perverted form of pluralism.

Challenges to democracy

Increased technical expertise, limited participation in government, escalating campaign costs, and diverse political interests.

Policy gridlock

A condition that occurs when no coalition is strong enough to form a majority and establish policy. The result is that nothing may get done.

Political culture

An overall set of values widely shared within a society.

The 5 elements of the American creed

Liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, laissez-faire, and populism. This is according to Lipset.

Gross domestic product

The sum total of the value of all the goods and services produced in a nation.


A nation's basic law. It creates political institutions, assigns or divides powers in government, and often provides certain guarantees to citizens. Constitutions can be either written or unwritten.

Declaration of Independence

The document approved by representatives of the American colonies in 1776 that stated their grievances against the British monarch and declared their independence.

Natural rights

Rights inherent in human beings, not dependent on governments, which include life, liberty, and property. The concept of natural rights was central to English philosopher John Locke's theories about government and was widely accepted among America's Found

Consent of the governed

The idea that government derives its authority by the sanction of the people.

Limited government

The idea that certain restrictions should be placed on government to protect the natural rights of citizens.

Articles of Confederation

The first constitution of the United States, adopted by congress in 1777 and enacted in 1781. The Articles established a national legislature, the Continental Congress, but most authority rested with the state legislatures.

Shays' Rebellion

A series of attacks on courthouses by a small band of farmers led by Revolutionary War Captain Daniel Shays to block foreclosure proceedings.

U.S. Constitution

The document written in 1787 and ratified in 1788 that sets forth the institutional structure of the U.S. government and the tasks these institutions perform. It replaced the Articles of Confederation.

Core ideas of the Constitution

Human nature, the causes of political conflict, the objects of government, and the nature of a republican government.


Interest groups arising from the unequal distribution of property or wealth that James Madison attacked in Federalist Paper No. 10. Today's parties or interest groups are what Madison had in mind when he warned of the instability in government caused by f

New Jersey Plan

The proposal at the Constitutional Convention that called for equal representation of each state in Congress regardless of the state's population

Virginia Plan

The proposal at the Constitutional Convention that called for representation of each state in Congress in proportion to that state's share of the U.S. population.

Connecticut Compromise

The compromise reached at the Constitutional Convention that established two houses of Congress: the House of Representatives, in which representation is based on a state's share of the U.S. population, and the Senate, in which each state has two represen

The equality issues

Equality and representation of the states, slavery, and equality in voting.

Writ of habeas corpus

A court order requiring jailers to explain to a judge why they are holding a prisoner in custody.

To prevent the possibility of a tyranny of the majority, Madison proposed the following

Place as much of the government as possible beyond the direct control of the majority, separate the powers of different institutions, and construct a system of checks and balances.

Separation of powers

A feature of the Constitution that requires each of the three branches of government�executive, legislative, and judicial�to be relatively independent of the others so that one cannot control the others. Power is shared among these three institutions.

Checks and balances

Features of the Constitution that limit government's power by requiring that power be balanced among the different governmental institutions. These institutions continually constrain one another's activities.


Supporters of the U.S. Constitution at the time the states were contemplating its adoption.


A form of government in which the people select representatives to govern them and make laws.


Opponents of the American Constitution at the time when the states were contemplating its adoption.

Federalist Papers

A collection of 85 articles written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison under the name "Publius" to defend the Constitution in detail.

Bill of Rights

The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, drafted in response to some of the Anti-Federalist concerns. These amendments define such basic liberties as freedom of religion, speech, and press guarantee defendants' rights.

Equal Rights Amendment

A constitutional amendment passed by Congress in 1972 stating that "equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." The amendment failed to acquire the necessary support from three-

Marbury v. Madison

The 1803 case in which Chief Justice John Marshall and his associates first asserted the right of the Supreme Court to determine the meaning of the U.S. Constitution. The decision established the Court's power of judicial review over acts of Congress, in

Judicial review

The power of the courts to determine whether acts of Congress and, by implication, the executive are in accord with the U.S. Constitution. Judicial review was established by John Marshall and his associates in Marbury v. Madison.


A way of organizing a nation so that two or more levels of government have formal authority over the same land and people. It is a system of shared power between units of government.

Unitary governments

A way of organizing a nation so that all power resides in the central government. Most national government today are these.

Intergovernmental relations

The workings of the federal system-the entire set of interactions among national, state, and local governments.

Supremacy clause

Article VI of the Constitution, which makes the Constitution, national laws, and treaties supreme over state laws when the national government is acting within its constitutional limits.

Tenth Amendment

The Constitutional amendment stating, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

McCulloch v. Maryland

An 1819 Supreme Court decision that established the supremacy of the national government over state governments. In deciding this case, Chief Justice John Marshall and his colleagues held that Congress had certain implied powers in addition to the enumera

4 key events that settled the issue of how the national and state powers are related

The elaboration of the doctrine of implied powers, the definition of the commerce clause, the Civil War, and the long struggle for racial equality.

Enumerated powers

Powers of the federal government that are specifically addressed in the Constitution; for Congress, these powers are listed in Article I, Section 8, and include the power to coin money, regulate its value, and impose taxes.

Implied powers

Powers of the federal government that go beyond those enumerated in the Constitution. The Constitution states that congress has the power to "make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution" the powers enumerated in Article I.

Elastic clause

The final paragraph of Article I, Section 8, of the constitution, which authorizes congress to pass all laws "necessary and proper" to carry out the enumerated powers.

Gibbons v. Ogden

A landmark case decided in 1824 in which the Supreme Court interpreted very broadly the clause in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution giving Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, encompassing virtually every form of commercial activity

Full faith and credit

A clause in Article IV, Section 1, of the Constitution requiring each state to recognize the official documents and civil judgments rendered by the courts of other states.


A legal process whereby an alleged criminal offender is surrendered by the officials of one state to officials of the state in which the crime is alleged to have been committed.

Privileges and immunities

A clause in Article IV, Section 2, of the Constitution according citizens of each state most of the privleges of citizens of other states.

Dual federalism

A system of government in which both the states and the national government remain supreme within their own spheres, each responsible for some policies.

Cooperative federalism

A system of government in which powers and policy assignments are shared between states and the national government. They may also share costs, administration, and even blame for programs that work poorly.


Transferring responsibility for policies from the federal government to state and local governments.

Fiscal federalism

The pattern of spending, taxing, and providing grants in the federal system; it is the cornerstone of the national government's relations with state and local governments.

Categorical grants

Federal grants that can be used only for specific purposes or "categories," of state and local spending. They come with strings attached, such as nondiscrimination provisions.

Project grants

Federal categorical grants given for specific purposes and awarded on the basis of the merits of applications.

Formula grants

Federal categorical grants distributed according to a formula specified in legislation or in administrative regulations.

Block grants

Federal grants given more or less automatically to states or communities to support broad programs in areas such as community development and social services.