Political Science 540, American National Institutions, Spring 2000

Prof. Frank Baumgartner


Questions and discussion topics for week 1, January 12:


Readings: Dahl, A Preface to Democratic Theory and Federalist Papers # 1, 6, 10, 23, 30, 39, 46, 47, 48, 51.


Choose one of these topics for a five page paper if you choose to do one this week. In any case, come to class prepared to discuss the following:


  1. Dahl begins with many of the elements laid out in the Federalist Papers and goes further, discussing the social system required for such a system to operate. What kinds of social structures does Dahl say are necessary for the functioning of a successful American-style democracy?


  1. Dahl lays out a number of goals for a successful democracy. Discuss in detail how a researcher would know whether a given system was living up to or failing these goals. Be specific. What would you look for? Are Dahlís arguments best applied in general, or in specific instances or with reference to specific institutions or procedures? Be specific and use examples.


  1. Choose one of the assigned Federalist papers other than #10, which is over-studied. Discuss the importance of the argument there. What alternatives are the authors attempting to discredit as they justify the institutions they favor? Using your one example, discuss the degree to which the founders achieved their stated goal. Now the hard part: Lay out a general design for how you would design a project to evaluate whether or not this goal was being achieved. What would you need to look for? What would be the research strategy? Is this typically done in research you know? Give examples.

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