Nov 16, 2020 in Politics

Short Paper Assignment
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Short Paper Assignment

The definition of democracy, as governance of elected representatives on behalf of the nation building on the principles of competition, participation and liberty, implies the notion of political parties and interest groups. The principle of democracy embeds the presence of a dialogue between the people and the representative government, in the course of which, the public will and opinion could be expressed and taken into account.

 

One branch of this dialogue is furnished by independent and accurate mass media, where journalists are entitled to access and question the government representatives on socially, politically, and economically significant issues. Their main function is to provide the truthful and credible top-down flow of information related to public policies. Public opinion is formed on the basis of real-life experience in the context of a particular state and media reports explaining the rationale behind specific policy-making. The other branch of this dialogue is serviced by vital entities to a political process, namely, political parties and interest groups. These public organizations are formed on the basis of awareness and perception of certain issues and interests as important for being recognized and satisfied within the framework of the whole society and the will of citizens to voluntarily unite and ascertain these interests. The fundamental democratic right to realize this will is fixed in the U.S. Constitution that provides:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances (U.S. Const. amend. I).

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Our discussion of political parties and interest groups conceptualizes these institutions of American government as linkage groups between public opinion and public policy. Interest groups are associations based upon common interest. Political parties are interest groups that pursue goals in the political field. Political parties satisfy the democratic requirement for political pluralism, representation, and elective nature of the government. The nation as a whole, linkage groups, and democratic government form a mechanism where public opinion is created, expressed, noted, and incorporated into public policies. Mutual recognition, interaction, communication, rotation in office, and conflict resolution among these groups are essential for sustainability and operation of the integrated political system. Taking into account that the American government is positioned as one of the most democratic governments in the world, the presence and freedom of linkage groups is critical to justify this claim.

At the moment, there are more than 40 national political parties in the U.S., among which the two parties occupy the governing place: the Democrats and the Republicans. In addition, there are about 20,000 of interest groups, such as professional and industrial organizations, trade unions, farming associations, legal and law enforcement unions, engineering and technical organizations, cultural, educational, and religious groups, medical and healthcare associations, media organizations, social assistance groups, environmentalists, etc. These linkage groups educate and form public opinion. They develop constructive programs and working plans that can be incorporated into feasible public policies. They promote their own representatives in the run for political governance. They make sure that not a single social interest is ignored and none of the vulnerable social groups is forgotten (Burns et al., 2010).

 
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I have chosen to discuss the article What is the Prison Industrial Complex? by Rachel Herzing that describes the goals and activity of Critical Resistance as one of the U.S. Criminal Justice Groups. This interest group pursues a criminal justice reform that could ensure social safety and stability in a world, a world not controlled by the prison industrial complex.

They argue that prisons have failed both in terms of economic expediency and corrective efficiency. They present statistics showing that penal institutions seize a tremendous part of the national budget to maintain functioning prisons, pay administrations costs, provide medical care and security. The advocates of the rights of criminals argue that the adverse image of prison life is correct and excludes common humanitarian features notwithstanding the fact that many penal institutions claim to have adopted international standards of human rights and treatment of inmates in places of imprisonment. This group fights to dissolve the myths created by governments, law enforcement, and media that emphasize the reliance of socio-economic safety in communities upon the need to lock up criminal offenders. Public attention is drawn to the fact that the criminal situation has not improved significantly over the years; even though. prisons are packed with people. These people are excluded from normal social life, do not develop in professional fields, and more than often face the ruin of their families. The vision of conservative members of the ruling classes is rooted in the outdated doctrine that makes imprisonment the cornerstone of punishment. However, recent studies show that only 6% of criminals become recidivists while others have no significant reasons for being sentenced to long-terms behind the bars (Walker, 2011). Critical Resistance highlights advantages of a penal reform involving separate placement of criminals, with regards to the gravity of offence, changes of procedural rules allowing the inmates exercise more freedom, and expansion of punishment unrelated to imprisonment. The group spreads information about the availability and efficiency of electronic bracelets that could be used to control location of offenders without placing them in secured institutions.

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