Basic American Government

Basic American Government

by Clarence B. Carson
Hardcover, 591 pages
Price: $50.00

In this book, Clarence Carson tackles a subject usually made dull by textbooks—American Government. But Carson does his best to add life to the topic by putting it in context and offering a history of the people and ideas that formed our government, rather than just giving us a text full of information about how our government works. He is also willing to address topics many texts shy away from, such as defining the original organization of our government as a republic rather than as a democracy and crediting the Christian view of man as the main reason for that choice by the founding fathers.

The book is arranged into four sections:

  • Introduction and Examination of American Government
  • Background of Political Thought and Practice
  • American Government in the 19th Century
  • Leviathan: American Government in the 20th Century

As you can tell from the title of that last section, Carson did not like how the federal government has expanded during the twentieth century! In his book he frequently addresses the expansion of federal power at the expense of states' rights. But although Carson thought that the Constitution has basically been a dead letter since the War Between the States, he believed that it is a magnificent document, laying out a form of government that needs to be studied and understood, not just for its own sake but to better understand how far we have drifted from its ideal.

Although the entire book is 591 pages, only 480 of those are Carson's text. The rest of the book is made up of a glossary, notes, famous American documents, and an index. (See the Table of Contents for more information). The book does not include comprehension or thought questions, and there are no tests or quizzes available. So we suggest that parents and students both read the book and discuss it, and perhaps have the student write a report based on what is learned.

This book is a hefty read for high school students, and can be slow-going at times, but it is an important text to read and understand. Carson makes little attempt to hide his opinions, and the book is all the more interesting for it.

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