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.
Chapter 17: Congress as Defender of Freedom
Congress as Defender of Freedom
Asia was rich in the intellectual and institutional traditions that would provide fertile grounds for democracy. What Asia did not have was the organizations of representative democracy. The genius of the West was to create the organizations, a remarkable accomplishment that has greatly advanced the history of humankind.
A theme common to both James Madison and Alexis de Tocqueville was their fear of majority tyranny—namely, that a democratic people would abridge the freedoms of a discrete and unpopular minority living amongst them. Out of fear, greed, or impatience, the prevailing majority would use the instruments of government to silence the dissenters, rob the productive, ...