1. Why did the 13 British colonies start the War of Independence against Britain?
2. When was the American Constitution adopted?
3. What is the Bill of Rights?
4. What is the Second Amendment?
5. Why were (and are) Americans so skeptical about the concentration of political power?
6. To avoid such concentration of power, the Founding Fathers decided on three things: representative democracy, federalism and separation of powers. Explain what each of these means.
7. Which Amendment states that powers not delegated to the federal government belong to the states (the so-called “states’ rights”)?
8. In only one of the areas listed below “do the individual states not have any power to decide. Which one?
9. The Americans skepticism of the federal government and its power is still very strong. Yet, there are some clear disadvantages of such strong states’ rights over federal rights. Study the advantages and disadvantages listed below. Which advantage and which disadvantage do you believe to be the most persuasive, and why?
10. What are the three branches of government made up of on the federal level?
11. What are the three branches of government made up of on the state level?
12. What is meant by “checks and balances” in the federal government in the USA?
13. How can the president check Congress?
14. Why may it be difficult for an American president to decide how to spend the money in the federal budget, as is the case for the current president Barack Obama?
15. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the system of separation of powers? Read p.188 for some examples. Can you think of others?
Representative democracy quite frankly means that the people vote for politicians (representatives), who will form a government. It would take far too long to have every single citizen voting in every decision which was to be made in the country, therefore they instead vote for politicians who will represent their will in the government. This way they may vote for the politician with whom they agree the most.
Federalism is the division of powers between each individual state, and the federal state. They basically have three levels of government; the local, the state, and the federal state. This way, each level will have a certain amount of power. Moreover, the states are the ones to give power to the federal state; rather than the other way around.
Separation of powers means that on both the federal, state, and local level, the power is divided between three different branches of government. On the federal level, these are: the legislative; consisting of the congress, the executive; consisting of the president and the vice president, and lastly the judicial, consisting of the supreme court.
The states’ power is divided between these three branches the same way, except they have a state supreme court and a governor.