American Values

American Values, Duke


Professor John H. Aldrich

Professor Michael C. Munger

Philadelphia - Old City: Independence Hall

Independence Hall

American Values and Institutions


Spring 2008—Political Science 112A



Location:        Soc Sci 113 (West Campus)

Offices:     404B Old Chem (JHA)   –  408 Perkins (MCM)

Meeting Time:  M & W 10:05 – 11:20 a.m.       phone:                  660-4346                           660-4300

Office Hours:   TBA / by appointment              emails:

Douglass North, the Nobel prize-winning economic historian, defined “institutions” as the humanly devised rules of the game that shape and direct human interactions.  The institutions of a nation and its people are the set of norms, values, rules, and laws that guide their choices and govern their disagreements.

This class is an introduction to the values and institutions of American politics.  In a way, it is an overview of a period of American political history, from 1770 through 1840.  But it is also an introduction to the political thought that animated larger events, including the two great revolutions of the 18th century, in America and France.  And it examines the creation of institutions that celebrated human freedom, while guaranteeing the “freedom” of some to keep others in human bondage.

The evaluation in the course will consist of attendance, two midterms, and a final, as well as a 1,200 word argumentative essay.


There are two main themes that organize the class.  We will return to the interplay between these themes over and over during the semester.

Theme 1:  Institutions  Preferences = Outcomes

This means, for one thing, that outcomes can change if preferences change.  That’s not too surprising, of course, and actually makes a lot of sense.  But the other alternative is really quite disturbing:  outcomes can change if preferences are held constant, but the decision rules change.

Theme 2:  Yours, Mine, and Ours

“Property” is in many ways a distinction between what is mine and what is yours.  But political rights often come down to complex domain restrictions:  what is mine to decide, and what is properly decided collectively  by the state, or agents appointed by the state?


The texts for the course are available in the bookstore:

Aldrich, John, Why Parties? University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Frohnen, Bruce.  American Republic:  Primary Sources, LF Press, 2002.

Hinich, Melvin, and Michael Munger, Analytical Politics.  Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Walker, David.  Appeal to the Coloured Peoples of the World, PSU Press, 2000 / 1825.


Attendance in class is expected.  Pop quizzes will routinely be given.  The subject of the quizzes will be drawn equally from the readings and lectures.



Grades for this class will be derived from the students’ performance on two midterm exams, a final exam, attendance, and a 1,200 word argumentative essay.   These will have the following weights:


ITEM:                                                                          WEIGHT:


1.  Midterm Exams I and II: 25% (Total 50%)

In class, 50 minutes, combination multiple choice & short answer.

2.  Final Exam: 25%

In class, in scheduled exam period:  TUESDAY 4-29, 2-5 pm.

3.  Argumentative Essay:                                             20%

These papers will be graded on both content and style, and will be discussed further in class at the beginning of the semester.  Must be typed.  1,200 word maximum.

4.  Class attendance / participation:                                        5%

The nature of the participation grades will be discussed more in class.  You are expected to attend class, and to participate by asking and answering questions.  And your performance on “pop” quizzes will form an important part of your participation grade.


TOTAL:                                                         100%


Schedule of Classes and Readings




1/9Class Introduction,



The Rule of Law

From Plutarch’s “Lives”   Caesar


Plato’s Apology,      Apology

Plato’s Crito,            Crito

Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, Book I

Munger, “The Thing Itself”, EconLib

1/14OriginsAlexis de Tocqueville, “Origins of the Anglo-Americans”, from


Democracy in America, Chapter II

McPherson, Battlecry of Freedom, Chapters 1 (Reserve)

1/16Iriquois Constitution


Magna Carta

Legacy and Meaning

Text of the Iriquois Constitution


Text of the Magna Carta (also in Frohnen, p. 92)

Legacy of the Magna Carta

1/21No Class:  MLK Day!


(But you MUST read!)

Letter from a Birmingham Jail


“I Have a Dream”

1/231. Quiz on MLK readings


2. Political Thought of the Founders:  More Plutarch

Kimball, Roger.  “Plutarch and the Issue of Character,” New Criterion, December 2000.  V. 19, no. 4.


Aristides Cicero Pericles

1/28Political Thought of the Founders:  Montesquieu’sSpirit of the LawsBook II, entire


Book XI, Chapters 1-6

Books XX-XXV, entire

1/30Rousseau and the


“Social Contract”

Book I, entire Book II, Chapters 1-6


Book III, Chapters 1-6, 9-11 Book IV, entire

2/4Liberty in the ColoniesWinthrop, “Little Speech on Liberty,” in Frohnen, p. 34


Williams, “The Bloody Tenent…”, in Frohnen, p. 42

The Stamp Act, 1765:  In Frohnen, p. 110

The Rights of the British Colonies….”, in Frohnen, p. 119

Repealing the Stamp Act, The Declaratory Act, 1766:  In Frohnen, p. 135

Letter(s) from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, in Frohnen, p. 146

2/6Declarations of Revolution:  AmericaVirginia Declaration of Rights, in Frohnen, p. 157


Declaration of Independence, in Frohnen, p. 189

Common Sense, by Paine, in Frohnen, p. 179

2/11French RevolutionThe Rights of Man  (Avalon site)


Hinich and Munger, Chapter 1

Edmund Burke, Letter from the New to the Old Whigs (1791)

2/13Review for Midterm I 
2/18Midterm I 
2/20Institutions and Studying American Institutions“Thoughts on Government,” Adams (Frohnen, p. 196)


Articles of Confederation (Frohnen, p. 200)

The U.S. Constitution (Frohnen, p. 234)

Chapter 2, Hinich and Munger’s Analytical Politics

2/25Why Rules Make the DifferenceFederalist 10, 47-5, and 78 (Frohnen, p. 241)


Hinich and Munger, Chapter 3 (4 optional)

2/27I Want, You Want:  What DoWe Want?Chapter 3, Hinich and Munger’s Analytical Politics
3/3Different Rules, Different OutcomesChapter 5, Hinich and Munger’s Analytical Politics
3/5The Liberty to Own SlavesLaws Regulating Servants and Slaves, in Frohnen, p. 582


“Slavery” and “Agriculture and the Militia”, in Frohnen, p. 589

David Walker, “Appeal”, Preamble and Article I

3/10-12NO Class: Spring Break!! 
3/17Is Democracy Good, and How Would We Know?Madison, “Speech Introducing Proposed Constitutional Amendments,” in Frohnen, p. 332


Debate over First Amendment Language, Frohnen, p. 348

Bill of Rights, Frohnen, p. 349

Michael Munger, “Democracy is a Means, Not an End”

Alien and Sedition Acts, 1798, in Frohnen, p. 396

3/19Walker’s “Appeal”Walker, “Appeal”, Articles II and III
3/24Two Racial RevolutionariesWalker, “Appeal,” Article IV


George Fitzhugh, “Cannibals All!”   Chapters 8, 9, 12, 19-22, 28, 30, 32

3/26Review for Midterm II 
3/31Midterm II 
4/2Endogenous Institutions:  Parties and American PartiesOpinions for and Against the National Bank (Jefferson and Hamilton), 1791, in Frohnen, p. 474


Aldrich, Why Parties?  Chapter 1

4/7Why Parties?Aldrich, Why Parties?  Chapter 2
4/9Founding the First PartiesAldrich, Why Parties?  Chapter 3
4/14Jacksonian DemocracyAldrich, Why Parties?  Chapter 4


Andrew Jackson, “Veto Message,” 1832, in Frohnen, p. 491

4/16The Courts and Public Policy:  Aid to Democracy, or Barrier?Dahl, Robert A.  1963.  Decision-Making in a Democracy:  The Role of the Supreme Court as a National Policy-Maker.  Journal of Public Law. 6: 279-95.


Marbury v. Madison, John Marshall, 1803, in Frohnen, p. 366

Barron v. Baltimore, John Marshall, 1833, in Frohnen, p. 375

4/21American ValuesAbraham Lincoln, “Address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, 1838”, in Frohnen, p. 518


Sanford Levinson, “The Embarrassing Second Amendment

James Madison, “On Property

Michael Munger, “Everybody Loves Mikey

4/23Review for FinalLast day of class


FINAL EXAM:  Tuesday, April 29, 2:00 – 5:00 pm


SPRING 2008 Calendar

(for details, click here!)

January 9Wednesday.  8:30 a.m. Spring Semester begins: ALL Monday classes meet on this day regardless of meeting pattern; Classes meeting on Wednesdays ONLY begin on Wednesday, January 16; Regular class meeting patterns begin on Thursday, January 10; Drop/Add continues
January 21Monday.  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday: classes are rescheduled on Wednesday, January 9
January 23Wednesday.  5:00 p.m. Drop/Add ends
February 22Friday.  Last day for reporting midsemester grades
February 25Monday.  Registration begins for Summer 2008
March 7Friday.  7:00 p.m. Spring recess begins
March 17Monday.  8:30 a.m. Classes resume
April 2Wednesday.  Registration begins for Fall Semester 2008; Summer 2008 registration continues
April 11Friday.  Registration ends for Fall Semester 2008; Summer 2008 registration continues
April 12Saturday.  Drop/Add begins
April 23Wednesday.  Undergraduate classes end
April 24 – 27Thursday-Sunday.  Undergraduate reading period
April 28Monday.  Final examinations begin
April 30Wednesday.  Undergraduate reading period (9:00 AM – 2:00 PM)
May 3Saturday.  10:00 p.m. Final examinations end
May 9Friday.  Commencement begins
May 11Sunday.  Graduation exercises; conferring of degrees