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Government and Politics in the Lone Star State: Theory and Practice,9780131174535
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Government and Politics in the Lone Star State: Theory and Practice

by ;
Edition:
6th
ISBN13:

9780131174535

ISBN10:
0131174533
Format:
Paperback
Pub. Date:
1/1/2008
Publisher(s):
Prentice Hall

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Summary

For courses in Texas Politics. Taking both a journalistic and political science approach, this text concentrates on the changesdemographic, political, economic, and socialthat contribute to the configuration of contemporary politics of Texas. Through theory, the research of other scholars, observation, anecdotes, and humor, the authors address the nuances of change on mass political behavior and decisions of political actors at the state and local level.

Table of Contents

(NOTE: Each chapter ends with a Summary and Conclusions section.)
The Social and Economic Milieu of Texas Politics
The Texas Constitution
Intergovernmental Relationships
Interest Groups and Power in Texas Politics
The Mass Media in Texas Politics
The Party System in Texas
Elections, Campaigns, and Political Behavior
The Texas Legislature
The Texas Executive
The Bureaucracy and Policy Implementation
The Judicial System in Texas
Local Governments in Texas: Cities, Towns, Counties, and Special Districts
Contemporary Public Policy Issues in Texas
Glossary
Photo Credits
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

Excerpts

Americans tend to be ambivalent toward their governments. On one hand, there are high expectations that garbage will be picked up regularly, that street lights will work, restaurants will be regularly inspected, Social Security checks will be sent in a timely manner, roads will be paved, and so on. But taxpayers often want something for nothing. They believe that increased services should not cost any more. Taxes should not be raised. Services shouldn't be cut even if there is a financial crisis. And there are some who have open hostility toward their governments. Cut taxes, eliminate programs, deregulate, devolve power from the national government, and just get government off our backs. This ambivalence is projected onto politicians as well. All those officeholders in city hall, the state Capitol, or Washington can't be trusted or are in politics for their own benefit. All of them, of course, except my city council member and congressman, who are doing a wonderful job. Ambivalence toward government and politics is not a 21st century phenomenon. It is rooted in our historical experience and emerges from our political culture. But, to two longtime observers of politics, ambivalence or hostility toward government doesn't make much sense if those who express such attitudes have no knowledge or only limited knowledge of government, politics, and the policy making process. Criticism of the actions of policy makers is a legitimate exercise of one's rights and responsibilities in a democratic society. But if one's comments are based on ignorance, how does this contribute to holding those in office accountable or to the development of good public policy? Perhaps we are excessively cranky, reflecting the many long hours we have spent observing, studying, and writing about government and politics in Texas. Perhaps we have more time to study the subject, and besides, we get paid for it. Perhaps we are part of that small group of policy wonks who get their grins from watching the good, the bad, and the ugly of politics. While these may be partial explanations, the truth of the matter is that we have a passion for the democratic system in which we live. It's flawed. Public officials and other actors in the political arena often act outrageously and irresponsibly. We lament the failure of reforms that would benefit the "disconnected" or the powerless in our state. We have seen the enactment of legislation that clearly had the handprints of the special interest groups. We have watched legislative battles that were over before they even began because deals had been cut in the back rooms. We pity those citizens who had read the textbook, followed the prescription to visit, call, fax, or e-mail their legislator to express their policy concerns. Justice is often denied to those without a fat checkbook. Despite the fact that the laws and administrative procedures require payments of child support, hundreds of thousands of Texas children are impoverished, in part, because child support payments are not made. It just isn't fair. A democratic society is not always a virtuous society. From the perspective of Thomas Hobbes, a 17th century political philosopher, people are capable of all kinds of bad things and need governments to place constraints on their excessive behaviors. We are among other commentators on political behavior who are some what optimistic about politics and government. We believe that individuals are capable of noble acts. They do the right things and are not solely pursuing their self-interests. The trick, then, for a democratic system is to constrain the excesses of self-interests and to encourage civic virtue. In the chapters that follow, you will be exposed to a great deal of factual material pertaining to state and local governments. Facts are the building blocks, but they only make sense if they are organized or rooted in concepts or theories. The facts that are presented are the most re


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