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    The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.

    John Adams

    This is a free textbook written for introductory undergraduate courses in American politics. It may also be suitable for precocious high school students, as well as for non-students who want to learn how American government works.

    I wrote this book for two main reasons. The first is that I regularly teach an introductory undergraduate course in American politics. I wanted a textbook that covered the basic principles and functions of American government without a lot of obscure trivia and minute details. None of the textbooks I considered struck the balance I desired. The only way to get the textbook I wanted was to write it myself.

    The second reason I wrote this book is that the American higher education system is facing a looming crisis. Textbook prices have skyrocketed in recent years and are continuing to rise, increasing the financial burden borne by college students. This economic trend is rooted in the noncompetitive nature of the textbook industry, which is unlikely to change in the near future. I believe students and instructors ought to have as many free, quality textbook options as possible. This is but one of a small but growing number of “open” textbooks written by political scientists and made freely available to anyone who wishes to use them. It may not be the best of the bunch, but it is one more free option for instructors to consider adopting.

    No textbook is perfect, and this one is no exception. Despite my best efforts, there are probably still mistakes, inaccuracies, and omissions. Moreover, American politics can change quickly, and before long any textbook on the subject becomes out of date and stale. I intend to regularly update and publish new editions of this book to correct any errors I find and keep up with the evolving American political landscape.

    This textbook is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0). You are free to use, distribute, adapt, and remix this book for noncommercial purposes, provided you give proper credit to the original author.

    The United States and its higher education system have been good to me, probably better to me than to most. To the citizens and students they serve, I humbly offer this textbook as a token of my gratitude, free in perpetuity.


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