• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

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 Moral Power of the Courts
The moral power of the courts

[T]he judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution ….

AlexanderHamilton, Federalist No. 78 (1788)

In Federalist No. 78 Hamilton declared that courts would be “the weakest of the three departments of power,” suffering “the natural feebleness of the judiciary” and “constantly in danger of being overpowered”:

The Executive … holds the sword of the community. The legislature … commands the purse…. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither ...

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