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 5: The American Constitution
The American Constitution
In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
Before the invention of modern democracy, back as recently as Machiavelli's time, the time-honored check against a government turning tyrant was regicide. Regicide literally meant the killing of kings. The threat of assassination was the primary restraint that kept kings from being vicious and oppressive. Rulers like Nero and Caligula made themselves so objectionable that they were murdered or forced to flee, and their fate served as a warning to other would-be tyrants.
But with each passing century, those ...