Liberty and Coercion

Liberty and Coercion

The Paradox of American Government From the Founding to the Present

Book - 2015
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Baker & Taylor
Explores how contradictory public agendas in the form of wanting both a small government and leaders who will enforce specific public views is challenging policymaking.

Princeton University Press

American governance is burdened by a paradox. On the one hand, Americans don't want "big government" meddling in their lives; on the other hand, they have repeatedly enlisted governmental help to impose their views regarding marriage, abortion, religion, and schooling on their neighbors. These contradictory stances on the role of public power have paralyzed policymaking and generated rancorous disputes about government’s legitimate scope. How did we reach this political impasse? Historian Gary Gerstle, looking at two hundred years of U.S. history, argues that the roots of the current crisis lie in two contrasting theories of power that the Framers inscribed in the Constitution.

One theory shaped the federal government, setting limits on its power in order to protect personal liberty. Another theory molded the states, authorizing them to go to extraordinary lengths, even to the point of violating individual rights, to advance the "good and welfare of the commonwealth." The Framers believed these theories could coexist comfortably, but conflict between the two has largely defined American history. Gerstle shows how national political leaders improvised brilliantly to stretch the power of the federal government beyond where it was meant to go—but at the cost of giving private interests and state governments too much sway over public policy. The states could be innovative, too. More impressive was their staying power. Only in the 1960s did the federal government, impelled by the Cold War and civil rights movement, definitively assert its primacy. But as the power of the central state expanded, its constitutional authority did not keep pace. Conservatives rebelled, making the battle over government’s proper dominion the defining issue of our time.

From the Revolution to the Tea Party, and the Bill of Rights to the national security state, Liberty and Coercion is a revelatory account of the making and unmaking of government in America.

& Taylor

Explores how contradictory public agendas in the form of wanting both a small government and leaders who will enforce specific public views is challenging policymaking, discussing how the resulting political impasse is based in two contrasting theories of power outlined by the Framers in the Constitution.

Publisher: Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2015
ISBN: 9780691162942
Branch Call Number: 320.473 GERSTLE
Characteristics: xiii, 452 pages ; 25 cm


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Oct 22, 2015

I cannot comment on this book since I've yet to read it, but I have heard the author speak before, and find his world view somewhat tenuous. If the politician is the uppermost point of the power structure, and those funding and finance him or her don't matter, then the author might be correct, but that is simply not the way reality is: Hillary Clinton's donors are Geo Group, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, with serious connections to BlackRock. Ditto the others, excepting Bernie Sanders and Dr. Jill Stein [Green Party]. If Eisenhower's primary financial backer wasn't Floyd Odlum, who was also the majority shareholder in United Fruit at that time, would Eisenhower have tasked the CIA to overthrow the Arbenz administration in Guatemala? If another of his supporters on the financial side weren't the Rockefeller brothers [David and Nelson], would Eisenhower have dispatched the CIA in its failed coup in Indonesia [the oil companies there were StanVac and CalTex - - Rockefeller companies and they were invested in the mining company there], or the successful coup in Iran [the major oil company, later to be renamed BP, whose ownership was split among Rockefeller, Mellon and Rothschild and the British government]?


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