If you want students to really understand the concept of power, moving beyond a survey book's quick discussion of Laswell's “who gets what and how,” Muir's thoughtful Freedom in America might be the book for you. Exploring the words and ideas of such thinkers as Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Tocqueville, Muir discusses the nature and limits of three types of power—coercive, reciprocal, and moral—and then uses this framework to explain how American political institutions work.

If looking for an alternative to a long survey text—or itching to get students grappling with The Federalist Papers or Democracy in America with more of a payoff—Muir's meditation on power and personal freedom is a gateway for students to take their study of politics to the next level. His inductive style, engaging students with well-chosen and masterfully written stories, lets him draw out and distill key lessons without being preachy. Read a chapter and decide if this page turner is for you.

The Presidency's Reciprocal and Moral Powers

The presidency's reciprocal and moral powers

Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.


Domestic affairs present a president different problems and require a different form of power to manage them. Unlike foreign relations, where threat and intimidation are required in dealing with adversaries, in domestic matters coercion is ill-advised and ineffective. A president must depend on reciprocal power, exchanging the resources at his disposal (budgets, patronage, and celebrity) for compliance with his wishes.1

It is surprisingly difficult for a president to control his branch of government—the colossal agencies that administer policy. A source of his difficulty is the obvious bureaucratic pathology that officials protected by civil service do what they want to do, including making themselves comfortable. Bureaucratic disobedience is likely ...

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