The Rules of American Politics: Democracy, Constitutionalism & Capitalism

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  • 0:03 Rules of the Game
  • 1:26 Democracy
  • 2:51 Constitutionalism
  • 4:41 Capitalism
  • 6:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will explore the three rules of American politics: democracy, constitutionalism, and capitalism. We will define each rule and see how it works to keep the political system running smoothly.

The Rules of the Game

In this lesson, we will explore the three rules of American politics:

  1. Democracy
  2. Constitutionalism
  3. Capitalism

We will define each rule and see how it works to keep the political system running smoothly.

The referee blows his whistle, steps onto the field, and beckons the players toward him. Two teams trot across the field. Their members don't look like players who would normally be on a football field. The men are in suits and ties, and the women are clad in business attire and high heels. These definitely aren't typical football players; they are politicians and government leaders about to engage in the game of American politics.

'Okay!', the referee barks. 'We're going to play a nice, clean game of politics here! And to do that, I need to lay down some ground rules. These will protect you, the players; they will safeguard your constituents, who are the reason why you're here; and they will keep this game running smoothly and efficiently. Now listen up!'

Democracy

The referee holds up one finger. 'Rule number one,' he begins, 'is democracy.' As the players listen, the referee explains the concept of democracy. 'Democracy,' he says, 'is government by the people.' In a democracy, citizens participate in the political process. Here in America, which has a representative democracy, these citizens vote for leaders to represent them in the government, but they also actively voice their opinions to their elected officials. Their views are important because, at the end of the day, any authority that the government has comes from them, the people of the country.

'These people are governing themselves with your help,' the referee concludes. 'Remember that! They have political rights. You aren't any better than they are. In fact, they are trusting in you to serve them well, to protect them, to uphold their rights, and to make sure that no one is treated unfairly. Don't let them down.'

Constitutionalism

The players grumble a little. They don't like to be told that they don't have full authority and that they must be servants. The referee blows his whistle again and hollers, 'Pay attention! You don't have to like it, but this is the way things are!' He continues, 'Rule number two is constitutionalism.'

'Constitutionalism,' he explains, 'means that the government's powers are limited by a written constitution, which is established as the highest law in the land.' It specifies the form that the government must take, and it sets boundaries that government leaders cannot cross. Here in America, the Constitution calls for three branches of government - the executive, the legislative, and the judicial - that balance the ruling power between them, check up on each other, and work together to get things accomplished. It also lays out a Bill of Rights to protect the basic human freedoms of all citizens.

'You are limited, players! You can't do whatever you want,' the referee shouts. 'You have to abide by our nation's Constitution. That means you can't trample all over people's rights, things like freedom of speech and freedom of religion and freedom of the press. Those are stated very clearly in the Bill of Rights, and you can't do anything about them. You have to work within the system!'

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