Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
government masthead
Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Fall 2009

GOV 312L • Issues and Policies in American Government

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39115 TTh
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
WEL 2.246

Course Description

Fulfills second half of legislative requirement for Government. This course examines the principles that lie at the core of the American political system. Why do we, as Americans, stand for liberty, equality, and democracy? How did these come to be our principles? How has our commitment to these principles manifested itself in our political history? How has our understanding of these principles changed over time, and what do these principles demand of us today? We will begin by considering the theoretical foundations of our liberal democracy in the thought of John Locke. Then we will consider how the political theory of modern liberalism found expression in the American Founding. We will examine the considerations that led the Founders to design the Constitution as they did, as well the arguments of those who opposed the Constitution, the Anti-Federalists. We will turn from the Founding period to Alexis de Tocqueville's great work Democracy in America, and consider his analysis of American political life and of the American character more generally. After that, we will consider how liberty and equality became thematic issues in the debate over slavery. We will examine how the ways in which Americans conceived of liberty and equality changed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We will examine how those principles were defended in the context of the Cold War. And we will conclude by considering some of the most compelling and provocative assessments of American life today. The course aims first to give students a better understanding of the origins and evolution of American principles and beliefs about politics. Second, it aims to provide students with a theoretical framework that will allow them to think critically about those principles and beliefs, and finally, it seeks to enable them to make informed judgments about how well America has achieved its ideals.

Grading Policy

Option 1 (No paper): Midterm Exam: 40% Pop Quizzes: 10% Final Exam: 50% Option 2 (With paper): Midterm Exam: 20% Pop Quizzes: 10% Final Exam: 30% Paper: 40%


1. COURSE READER, available at Jenn's Copying and Binding, 2518 Guadalupe St., at the corner of Guadalupe and Dean Keeton, tel. 482-0779. 2. Second Treatise of Government by John Locke. Hackett edition, edited by C.B. Macpherson. 3. The Federalist Papers by John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. Signet Classics edition, edited by Clinton Rossiter. 4. Democracy in America, Volume Two, by Alexis de Tocqueville. Vintage Classics edition. 5. Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman. 40th Anniversary edition, University of Chicago Press.


bottom border