Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
It’s been exciting to see so many blog participants today! A big thank you to those who are with us every day, and an enthusiastic welcome to some of our newer folks! Each of you brings a unique and valuable perspective to these pieces. The larger the group we hear from, the more complete and “whole” our understanding becomes!
I was fascinated by the descriptions of factions in human nature, with faction defined as a group, majority or minority, united by a common passion or interest “adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Knowing we can’t control the cause of these factions, the founders set out to control the effects.
Madison argues that a republic is more effective than a democracy in controlling the effects of factions. I would bet that most citizens today cannot explain the difference between a republic and a democracy. Federalist No. 10 not only explains the difference, but outlines the reasons why a Republic is more effective than a Democracy in representing the broad interests of the community and Nation.
I loved this sentence: “A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal distribution of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it.”
Madison saw “an equal distribution of property” as “improper and wicked.” There is a moral case to be made for allowing the spirit of free enterprise to reign in our society. Men possess different abilities, and their “diverse faculties” produce different classes of property owners. A republic balances the interests of these different classes.
Finally, towards the end of Federalist No. 10, a sentence that made me smile: “In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried.” It is interesting to see that over 200 years ago, they still had problems with “dirty tricks,” in campaigns!
Thank you again to everyone for your insights today!!
3 Responses to “May 11, 2010 – Federalist No. 10 – Cathy Gillespie”
Cathy, you commented on Madison’s acknowledgment that men by nature possess a diversity of faculties. But, what almost jumped off the page for me was the next sentence–”The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.” This idea is similar to what Jefferson wrote in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence telling us that governments are instituted among men to secure our unalienable rights. Our diverse faculties are such an integral part of who we are that they are probably as unalienable as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One can come to a paradoxical conclusion that when individuals with diverse faculties, situated differently in time and space, are truly free, the result is a whole lot of inequality–that’s material inequality not political inequality. So a necessary corollary of liberty is inequality and it then follows that a prime function of government is actually to protect inequality. Of course in the long run, society is better off if individuals are allowed to flourish using the unique faculties with which they have been endowed. This is a problem today in an era of identity politics, the politics of envy and class warfare–individuals can’t be allowed to flourish.
It is clear to me that the Founders conceived of government, properly structured, as a means of protecting us from one another. The modern conception of government for most Americans is diametrically opposed to the Founders’ conception. Today, we have some Americans using government to invade the property rights and impair the faculties of other Americans. Government today is seen as a provider government; a government that will provide not only the bare necessities, but also a house, a job with a certain pay level, medical care, a car, internet, a cell phone and, most recently, appliances. And what most people fail to realize, or they do realize and just don’t care, is that before the government can provide anything to anyone it must first take resources or labor from some other citizens. So now we have an ever-growing segment of our population who wish to obtain for themselves through the force of government that which they refuse to provide for themselves by tapping into that quintessential American trait of an “unequaled spirit of enterprise.” The Founders no doubt were familiar with the fundamental law of economics that says, “Man tends always to satisfy his needs and desires through the least possible effort.” If it’s easier to get something through political means using coercion than through economic means using voluntary contracts and transactions, then men lacking virtue won’t waste any time to start organizing to gain control the political process with the singular aim of redistribution.
Susan Craig says:
Ah yes another prime example of the hubris of man. Man thinks that he can equalize and homogenize what GOD has created as diverse and interesting. This ranks right up there with the belief that puny man could possibly destroy anything as complex and wonderful as the climate of the earth. Yes we can soil to uninhabitability our own particular corner but on a global scale not so much.
The Glenn Beck Review says:
Madison also saw large corporations as an evil. so the “moral case to be made for allowing the spirit of free enterprise to reign in our society” was not as cut and dry as Libertarians make it seem. Madison wrote that “there is an evil which ought to be guarded agst in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The power of all corporations, ought to be limited in this respect” – – James Madison, Detached Memoranda, circa 1817
This pretty much contradicts the “moral case to be made” in favor of a progressive case for trust busting and legislating against “too big to fail.”