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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Spring 2010

GOV 312L • Issues and Policies in American Government

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
38750 TTh
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
MEZ B0.306
Stauffer, D

Course Description

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.

Grading Policy

Grading: 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% Attendance also counts.


Second Treatise of Government by John Locke The Federalist Papers Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman A Course Reader


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