Bookreport: AboutAmerica:How the United States is Governed
Arnold,Paul A. 2004. AboutAmerica:Howthe United States is Governed.Herndon, Va.: Braddock Communications.
Summary Theforty-page booklet by Arnold analyses the way the United States ofAmerica is governed. The author gives an overview of the governmentsin the United States including the national, state and localgovernments. The book gives a definition of various terms relevant tothe government system of the United States. At the beginning of thebook, the author asserts that the government is precisely classifiedas a constitutional federal republic. He highlights the way thesystem of government operates. Arnold describes how the U.S.government may appear straightforward to an observer unfamiliar withthe system. The observer may see that the laws are made by thecongress and it is the duty of the President to implement the laws.By closely examining the system however, much more complex system canbe seen involving interactions and influences. The bookexplains how the people hold the ultimate power within the system ofgovernance. These people exercise the power through elections thatare regular and scheduled. In the elections, voters choose thePresident, the Congress members and the many different officials ofthe state. It is these officials and their staff who makes thepolicies, laws and spearheads the everyday government operations. Theauthor suggests that the Constitution serves as the design for thesystem of government1.The American constitution was ratified in 1988 and it outlines threedifferent branches of government which are the executive, legislativeand the judiciary. The constitution also created checks and balancesfor the distribution of power to the three branches. Each branch isgiven some form of power over the other branch. AboutAmericagives an outline of the interaction between the federal, state andlocal governments. The constitution defines the structure of thefederal government. However, it also provides provisions that regardstate governments. Each of the states also has a constitution of itsown. These state constitutions in turn have provisions for localgovernments including cities, counties, towns, schools, anddistricts. The author moves on to describe the various similaritiesand differences that exist between the systems of government in theUnited States and other forms of democratic government. In the U.S.the President heads both the government and the state. The electionof the President is conducted separate from legislature. It is alsonot a must for it to be of the majority political party. ThePresident has a cabinet consisting of people who constitutionallycannot become members of Congress at that same time. The authordescribes the various arms of the government of the United States. Hegives a detailed description of the federal government. In thissection, the author describes the law making process. According tohim, the laws are made in the Capitol building where the House ofRepresentatives and the Senate have to concur before any new law cantake effect. The author also describes the composition of every armand branch of the government including the senate, the executivebranch, the judiciary and many others. He also describes thesuccession of the president. Arnold describes the state governmentsand their structures. The various structures described include theexecutive the judiciary and the legislature. The author alsodescribes the powers and responsibilities of the state governments.He goes ahead to describe the local governments, their roles and howthey are affected by the state constitutions2.
TheThoughts of other Authors Because of the publicity of thesystem of government of the United States, most authors agree on thevery many facts. However, some authors who have written about theU.S. system of government like Charles Matzke of Michigan Universityhave gone further to explain the deeper details of the functions ofthe government in the United States. Matzke also outlines models thatled to the various systems that were adopted. While Paul Arnoldonlydeals with the overviews of the various details of the governmentsystems3,Matzke goes further to explain the various details of the systems andthe reasons behind them. For instance, Matzke talks about federalismin chapter 3, which is a deeper explanation of the federalgovernment. Instead of just talking about the federal government, theauthor moves on to explain the concept of federalism. The author alsotalks about civil rights and public policy, public opinion and how itinfluences political action, the political agenda and how it relateswith the mass media, social welfare and policy making among otherdetails. Matzke also goes on to talk about social security and themaking of the policies surrounding it. Some authors have gonefurther to relate public policy, politics and the government. Theirexplanations reveal that the government is formed by a combination ofpolitics and public policy. Some also explain how government policyagenda can be influenced by the people. Other authors explore thecritical principles of traditional democratic theory and how itinfluences governance in the United States. They also explain themodern theories of the democracy of the United States including thepluralism, elite and class theory and the hyper-pluralism. Authorshave also explained the challenges that influence democracy in theUnited States4. Liberty,populism, egalitarianism, laissez-faire, and individualism arecomponents of the political culture of America. These have beenexplained by Matzke. He went further to explain how they contributeto democracy. Their roles in shaping the government have also beendiscussed by the author. Another author has described the fundamentalconcepts of politics, government and public policy. The author hasalso defined the relationship between the three. The governmentincludes institutions that formulate public policies that areauthoritative for the whole society. A study of the stategovernments of the U.S. describes the functions of the government toinclude the maintenance of public defense, the provision of publicgoods, maintaining order by use of police power, furnishing of publicservices, incorporating the young into the political culture, and thecollection of taxes that are used to pay for the services provided bythem. According to the author, the public goods provided by thegovernments are services that are shareable by all people andundeniable to anyone. Another study described the scope of thegovernment of America. According to the researchers, the governments,including the national, state and local, spend around 29% of the GDP.The national government has an annual expenditure of about $3trillion owns a third of all the land in the U.S. and employs morethan 2 million people. About a sixth of the federal budget goes tothe National defense while more than a fifth of the budget goes toSocial security. Medicare take slightly more than a tenth of the samebudget. The federal government assists in funding the construction ofhighways, and airports. They also fund school districts, policedepartments and other functions of the state as well as local ones5.The researchers found out that the American government has maximizedon spending more than taxing and this has resulted in a national debtthat is more than $9 trillion. Many other authors have talked aboutthe American government system. However, the information in otherliterature either elaborate the ones given by others or are justduplications. This is due to the fact that a lot of interest has beendirected to the almost unique system of governance that many nationsseek to copy.
MyOpinion The author has been very successful in meeting hispurpose. The author sought to describe how the United States isgoverned, and this has been well represented in the book. The authorhas properly described the various concepts pertaining to thegovernments. Arnold has also properly expounded on the differentbranches of government and the composition of the senate. Thedifferent roles played by the government segments at the national,state and local levels have also been elaborately explained. Theauthor has hinted on the government spending and budget. This shouldhave been key in the descriptions as it helps in highlighting the keyareas where the government places the highest value. This informationis important in understanding the priorities of the government and indetermining whether the government system is effective. Oneother area that has been effectively covered is the comparison of theUnited States government to other democratic governments. This givesan overview of how superior or unique the government of the UnitedStates is. The different ways in which the governments differ havebeen expressly covered and have been effective in showing how thegovernment of the U.S. relates to other governments. The author hasmoved from the basics to describing the details, which is a verystrategic way of description6.By first introducing the concepts, the author is able to prepare thereader for the information presented later on. This ensures that thereader understands what is explained more deeply. The authoreffectively explains the meaning of the constitutional federalrepublic, which the attribute of the United States government. Hedivides the concept into three parts, constitutional, federal andrepublic7.These explanations effectively reveal to the reader what to expect interms of the explanation on the nature of the system of government inUnited States. The author maintains the same trend inintroducing every section of the book. He starts by describing themain concepts and then moves on to outline the contribution of thoseconcepts to the main topic of discussion. The author also employs theuse of illustrations and images that give the reader a clear mentalpicture about the topic being discussed. The author’s case is veryconvincing case in supporting his explanations. The author explainsvery elaborately about the system of the US government. This is evenmade more convincing through the comparison with other countries. Thebook is very objective in its explanation. However, the author hasfailed to consider other points of view8.This makes the book less convincing. The author does not also reviewother literature on the same topic. This makes his work unreliable asa reference material for any further studies. The authorhas not used any sources in his writing. He should have consideredacademic as well as historical resources to support his argument.Using such sources as reference could have made the work very strongand reliable. The author has given even definitions and explanations.These explanations and definitions are not his own ideas yet hefailed to refer to the sources from where he obtained theinformation. For example, where the author explains the termsconstitutional, federal, and republic, the author should have giventhe citation to the sources of those definitions instead of justmentioning them. Because the topic is mostly is historical, it wasexpected that the author could provide enough sources, not onlyacademic but many historical literature. Despite the failure toinclude other literature on the same topic, the book can still makesignificant contributions in informing people about the structure ofthe government of the United States. It may also serve as ahistorical book9.The book makes very important contributions to the understanding ofthe system of government in America. This is because of the manydetailed explanations about the various concepts on the U.S.government. However, if I was to write a book on the same topic, Iwould include a literature review section where I record other worksby other writers and authors. In my literature. For every informationthat is not my own ideas, I could have provided recognition of thesources where I obtained them and given explanations in notes wherenecessary. Other concepts that are not easily understandable I couldhave also given explanations in notes to help my readers tounderstand my writing. I could also have attempted to make availableall the frameworks and theories behind the government system of theUnited States. I would not include this book since itsinformation cannot be verified. I would not recommend this book toother scholars since this book does not qualify as a scholarlymaterial. Including it in my references would mean that I recognizeit as a good and quality source of academic information. Instead, Iwould consult other sources other than this one. In general, the bookis a good material for information, describing the various componentsof the US government and its systems, components, functions andsignificance. However, it does not qualify as a scholarly materialand the information cannot be relied upon as reference. The authorhas given a lot of details and information that cannot be assumed tobe all his ideas. This means that the author should have givenrecognition to all the resources he consulted while writing his work.The author also failed to give references at the end of his work thatcan be consulted to verify his information.
Break,George F (2000). Financing Government In A Federal System.Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.
Coaldrake,O. P (2001). Working The System. St Lucia, Qld., Australia:University of Queensland Press.
Jackson,Robert H (2007). The Supreme Court In The American System OfGovernment. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Janda,K., Jeffrey M B., and Jerry G. (2008). The Challenge Of Democracy.Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Jones,Charles O (2005). The Presidency In A Separated System. Washington,D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1994. Print.
1 Paul A Arnold, About America (Herndon, Va.: Braddock Communications, 2004).
2 Paul A Arnold, About America (Herndon, Va.: Braddock Communications, 2004).
3 Paul A Arnold, About America (Herndon, Va.: Braddock Communications, 2004).
4 Robert L Lineberry, Government In America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1983).
5 Break, George F. Financing Government In A Federal System. (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2000).
6 Break, George F. Financing Government In A Federal System. (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2000).
7 Robert L Lineberry, Government In America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1983).
8 Break, George F. Financing Government In A Federal System. (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2000).
9 Robert L Lineberry, Government In America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1983).