Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What are the proper roles of the different levels of government?

I love reading old politics and history textbooks (I know, I know, I'm a nerd). I especially like pulling lines and ideas out of these books and asking my Intro to American government students to comment on them. For example, this comes from A History of American Government and Culture by Harold Rugg (1931):
The American people have found it necessary to set up three kinds of government:
I. A national government, which manages such things as
1. Issuing money and establishing national banks.
2. Maintaining postal service.
3. Conducting affairs of state with foreign countries.
4. Arranging matters of industry and trade among states and with foreign countries.
5. Defending the country against foreign or native disturbers.
6. Raising money for all these national things.
7. Deciding who can vote in national elections and hold Federal offices.
II. A state government in each of the 48 states, which manages such things within each state as
1. Education.
2. All questions of property, industry, and trade.
3. Decisions as to who can vote and hold office within the state.
4. Legislation, that is, the making of criminal and civil laws.
III. Local governments in towns, cities, and counties. these vary greatly in different states, but in general they have charge, within the local territory only and under the laws of the state, of such things as
1. Protecting lives and property through their departments of police, fire, health, streets, and the like.
2. Education.
3. Regulating trade, transportation, and other public utilities. 

The questions for the students would be:
1) What is the same today, and what is different?
2) Are these differences good or bad?

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