“A means by which individuals and interest groups compete to shape government’s impact on society’s problems and goals. ” Politics is easily defined. It is the concept behind the words that is more difficult to understand. Though politics is the primary method of communicating with government, this is not the only time politics are used. Immediate, individual interests, wants, and needs must be satisfied, as well as societal problems. The pursuit of interest is the purpose and initiation of political behavior.
The moment an individual actively pursues an interest or works toward the completion of a goal, it is projected outside him. For example, a person is shopping for a car. The situation is no longer individual because he cannot achieve his goal of obtaining a new car alone; another person or dealership must make the car available to him. Because the person selling the car also has a goal, there is interplay of interests, and the implications of politics. Negotiation over a car, or anything of interest involves a distribution of attention from one side to another.
Just as a car has a seller and a buyer, the government has different political parties, and each issue has a group for and against it. Gaining cooperation from the other side requires strategy. Tactics used range from peaceful, including persuasion and civil disobedience, to violent. But the expectation of reward and the actual probability of reward essentially dictate political action. Rewards are both individual and societal. Power and the ability to control motivate our political leaders. Desire for wealth fuels citizens and the economy.
Skilled citizens are represented in the technologically advanced Japanese population. Enlightenment comes from an educated society. Health is invaluable to everyone, and to society when average life spans increase. And finally, respect, morality, and affection are the values that make up a person’s essence. Government is just as involved in the distribution of rewards and the claiming of values as individuals. Its leadership is the nucleus of society. The government allocates resources (money), deciding the fate of such programs as Medicare and welfare reform and the means, usually tax dollars, to pay for these programs.
Government is the goal-attaining unit, and its decisions reflect those goals. The government is responsible for building a foundation now to prepare for the future. These decisions for the future are some of the most difficult ones to make. Improving the education system, reforming Social Security, and making progress in race relations have been primary goals and sources of political debate. In the United States, issues become political issues first as a result of the republic, or “representative democracy” the country is. The people do not directly make decisions; their elected officials do.
However, politicians running for office must concern themselves not only with the issues that are important to the voting public, but with the political party’s interests, and the special interest groups which advocate that party. This potential conflict of interests, complicates the job of government to act in the best interest of the country. Once elected, the politicians wish to achieve their individual goals of remaining in office, and they keep this in mind when deciding which of the contending interests to support. Which goals take priority, the politicians’ or the country’s?
This is a question is asked by the non-voting public and is a possible explanation for lack of voter turnout and political indifference. Politicians with authority emphasize a concern for the country and its people to attain a mandate, a majority of the popular vote. This authority implies legitimacy, a principle successful politicians adhere to. The people respect leaders whose values are compatible. Respect is a contributing factor to whether or not the people obey the laws made by these leaders. A law is nothing more than a state of enforceability, and compliance habits do a ninety percent job of governing the country.
The better these habits, the more integrated and peaceful a country; the worse, the more conflict arises. The public complies from response generated by its leaders as well as by its collective memory and because of satisfaction with the status quo. The last two reasons for compliance have to do with learning. In government and society, learning is the ability to correct errors. Memory of events such as the Holocaust and practices such as slavery has brought about change in human rights laws and in treatment of minorities.
Segregation was once the norm in the United States, and the government attempted correction of this mistake by establishing integration laws. Punishment of those who refused to integrate was government’s way of forcing learning. The government also rewards learning, as with funding for affirmative action, AIDS and other disease awareness programs, and scholarships for college students. Learning from these and all situations is the final consideration of politics, as individuals, interest groups, and the government must continually learn new ways to achieve scarce goals.