How is our two-party system beneficial to our democracy? How is it harmful?
Our two-party system is often an effective way of organizing the people around some of the fundamental debates in our democratic society. For instance, the Republican Party tends to represent notions of individual liberty. Along with that philosophical outlook come certain policy preferences, including lower taxes, minimal interference and regulation by the government, and freedom of contract. Democrats, on the other hand, tend to prescribe to the opposing philosophical system of collectivism. Along with that ideology comes policy preferences like increased government activism, equality of condition, and In other words, the two parties represent, at their core, two fundamentally competing values about how our society should be organized. It is easier for the people to organize and vote for a package of policies that represent their preference for either individualism or collectivism. However, the two-party system, as it exists in America, can be restrictive in the sense that it limits the people to merely two choices. Many Americans describe themselves as "moderate" or "centrist." Those who say things like this tend not to like being put into a box; they may agree with some of the policies that Republicans pursue, but absolutely hate others. In order to have a say in government, they feel that they must sacrifice some of those policy goals in favor of others because a vote for a Republican is a vote for ALL of the policies Republicans have put into their package. Similarly, somebody who may favor increased environmental regulation may not necessarily favor increased welfare spending. However, they feel that they must vote for a Democrat and accept increased welfare spending in order to obtain increased environmental regulation because that's what is in the Democratic package deal. This forced choice can leave people feeling resentful and taken advantage of when their favored candidate enacts policies they really didn't want. On the whole, the two-party system does a great job of organizing people around the debate between individualism vs. collectivism. However, in an increasingly complex society, it has become harder for the two parties to create policy "packages" that predictably satisfy the people based on their fundamental values.
How does the right to trial by jury help to further the ideal of the rule of law? How does it interfere with it?
The rule of law centers around two central ideas: (1) society ought to be governed by laws, and not by man; and (2) nobody, including the government, can disobey the law. Juries represent an inherently democratic system; they are meant to be a representative of the people, not of the government. Juries are democratic because they vest the people (not the government) with the power to decide whether one of their own has violated the norms (the rule of law) of their society. In other words, nobody can be imprisoned -- or put to death -- for a criminal offense if "the people" don't decide they are worthy of that punishment. In this way, the government is literally unable to deprive somebody of his or her liberty without the input of the people. Therefore, the government must follow the law just like the people, and the people are the ones who ensure that it does so. On the other hand, juries can also represent the vindictiveness and tyranny of the people. There are many instances in American history where juries convicted innocent people not on the evidence and the law, but on a "gut feeling" of contempt for the accused. In this way, juries flout the rule of law themselves and undermine their very purpose: equal treatment under the rule of law.
What actions by Parliament most angered the colonists during the mid-1700s and how did they contribute to the movement for independence? Why did those actions anger the colonists so much?
The colonists were primarily angered by Britain's increased regulation of trade. In order to pay off its debts from its war with France, Parliament began passing acts that banned the colonies from trading with any countries other than Britain and levied severe penalties for violations of those acts. This effectively gave Britain a monopoly over the necessities that the colonists had to import because they couldn't produce them at home. As a result, prices and taxes became much more expensive for the colonists. Britain also began seizing American ships that were found with goods from other countries. It often did so without reimbursing the private American colonists who owned the ships and their cargo. The colonists weren't just angry about the increased cost of imports and draconian enforcement, however. For decades Britain, preoccupied with its vast global empire and various wars, allowed the colonies to largely govern themselves. The colonists got used to this autonomy and began creating their own governmental institutions. Naturally, the colonists resented Britain's sudden intrusion into their autonomous democratic institutions. Britain's increased aggression in response to colonial dissent -- like the Boston Massacre -- further angered the colonists, and ultimately led to armed rebellion. That rebellion blossomed into the American Revolution.