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 24: Federalism and Freedom
Federalism and Freedom
It is incontestable that the people frequently conduct public business very badly; but it is impossible that the lower orders should take a part in public business without extending the circle of their ideas and quitting the ordinary routine of their thoughts. The humblest individual who co-operates in the government of society … is canvassed by a multitude of applicants, and in seeking to deceive him in a thousand ways, they really enlighten him. He takes a part in political undertakings which he did not originate, but which give him a taste for undertakings of the kind. New improvements are daily pointed out to him in the common property and this gives him the desire of improving that property which ...