Monday, May 5, 2014

James Madison, the Federalist Papers, Factions, and the Modern-day Tyranny of the Left


The Federalist Papers were a series of newspaper articles that James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay wrote. These three wrote the Federalist Papers to explain to the American people the principles of the constitutional government and to convince the states to ratify the new US Constitution. In these articles, the theories behind the US Republic were declared, explained, and argued. The Federalist Papers remain a solid foundational document explaining what kind of government the US Constitution was supposed to create and the dangers of deviating from the Constitution.

Federalist #10 talks about factions - special interests or lobbies in modern parlance. The early founders of the United States were concerned with the problems of unrestrained, direct democracy. They had read about the concept of direct democracy from the Classical Greek texts and understood its inherent problems. For example, the founders recognized problems with majority rule. In a majority rule system, the majority could gang up against the minority and deny the minority the very rights that government was instituted to protect. 

Likewise, when minorities gain too much control, they can subvert the founding principles to force unwanted laws on the majority. There is a hidden danger in factions.

According to Madison:
By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community. (Federalist #10)
Most of my university students miss the point when I question them about Madison's statement. They usually explain this passage indicating something about majority rule or the tyranny of the majority (which phrase they learned from their liberalized teachers who also never read Plato's Republic). This is not, however, what Madison said. Note that a faction can be a majority of the people or a minority. The idea is that either can work to remove the rights of others, against the aggregate interests of the community.

According to Madison, "there are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects." (Federalist #10)

The effects of factions are controlled, as Madison argues, through the Republic - the triad system of checks and balances outlined in the Constitution, and through limited government. The representatives we elect are supposed to reduce the effects of factions precisely because they are to represent the self-interests of their constituents. Congress is supposed to move slowly, deliberately, forming a consensus and passing laws only when they are found to benefit the interests of all of the citizens of the United States. According to Madison, only in this way can Congress pass laws to protect the rights of all of the citizens in the US.

Yet the system has changed. The federal government has defenestrated Madison's ideals of controlling factions in favor of a more responsive federal government (which is an oxymoron, by the way).

We can explain the changes in Madison's model by tracing the ideals of modern liberalism. Modern liberalism finds the methods of the old Republic too slow and too antiquated to provide the immediacy of relief from perceived problems or wrongs. The problem stems from the idea that it is government's job to provide all sorts of relief to these perceived problems or wrongs.

Is the economy too sluggish? The federal government needs to immediately pass spending bills to spark the economy. Katrina wiped out New Orleans? The federal government needs to immediately step in and fix it. Toilets using too much water? The federal government needs to mandate smaller tank sizes. Coffee spills scald someone? The federal government needs to protect consumers.

There ought to be a law!

And on and on and on.

There are myriads of books written about the rise of modern liberalism and the changes it has affected on government. What's important to note is that modern liberalism has convinced Americans that these examples are now all natural roles of the federal government. We don't want anyone left out do we? We don't want more people hurt do we? We need protection and equality and we need it now!

Here we are faced with a dilemma. We now have a government in the US which increasingly intrudes into the private lives of its citizens. Madison recognized this problem and argued against it. In his Federalist #10, he notes that government can also reduce factions by removing its causes.
There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests. (Federalist #10)
Having found the Republic too slow to act or not progressive enough in its actions, modern liberalism seeks to remove the causes of factions instead of controlling its effects. Madison identified two methods of removing the causes of factions, both of which are inimical to the foundational principles of the US government.

Take your pick, destroying liberty or giving the same opinions, modern liberals use both methods to control the cause of factions. A few examples will suffice to illustrate both methods.

Destroying Liberty:
  • The Patriot Act
  • Wiretapping and/or monitoring phone calls and internet
  • Control of education - No Child Left Behind
  • Huge restrictions on industry production
  • Health insurance and industry regulation
  • Excessive taxation
  • Taxing the rich because being rich is unfair
  • Sin taxes to pay for SCHIP - taxing the poorest people in the US to supply medical benefits to children
  • Regulating industries, including taking over the management of General Motors
  • Federal gun laws in violation of the 2nd Amendment
  • Federal anti-religious laws in violation of the 1st Amendment
  • Refusing to uphold and defend laws passed by Congress
  • Killing American citizens without due process
  • Handing guns over to Mexican drug lords
  • Covering up the mistakes made in Benghazi with lies
And on and on and on.

The federal government certainly has its fingers touching the lives of all Americans. Most of this list relates to federal actions within only the last 15 years. Are some of these things good things? Yes, but that's not the point. The point is that with each new federal overreach, our liberties are destroyed by degrees.

Same Opinions
This is the more insidious of the two principles trying to remove the causes of factions. Within my lifetime, we've come up with the phrase "politically correct." Some ideas and some words cannot be spoken or written because they are not politically correct. Over the years, the list has grown to considerable size. At the heart is the idea that if we control language, we also control thoughts.

Here's an example. We've recently seen the excoriation of Donald Sterling, the owner of the LA Clippers basketball team. Yes, the man said inappropriate things, but his utter annihilation by the mainstream media, as well as the backlash from the NBA show a dangerous abuse of power associated with political correctness.

When Brendan Eich, the former CEO of Mozilla was forced to resign from the company because of campaign contributions he made six years ago to support California's Proposition 8. Here's a clear-cut case of the minority, namely gay rights activists, using political correctness to attempt to force the same opinions about homosexuality as they hold.

A different kind of example stems from the idea of "bipartisanship." The government and news media constantly harp on the idea of creating bipartisanship in the government. Yet the founders of our government recognized that each member of government would act in his own self interest. Hence, the founders created two chambers in Congress and a checks and balances system.

Bipartisanship is dangerous to good government in our Republic. Why? Because when government consists of one mind, one party, or one person rule, tyranny results. Personally, I'd like to see a great deal more partisanship in government.

We now live in a society where we are encouraged through politically correct values or through legislation to form and keep the same opinions as everyone else. Same sex marriage? Of course gay people should be married. Homosexual sex? Nothing wrong with that. Religious convictions? Those are outdated and unnecessary. Ban assault weapons? What possible use are those?

And on and on and on.

The US government was set up to protect the rights of all its citizens and to protect its citizens from government control. Madison argued against removing the causes of factions precisely because those controls take away liberty. Yet, despite the intent and beginnings of the federal government based on Madison's ideals, the US government continues to take power and worse, Americans continue handing power to the government.


When we cross the line into tyranny, it will be too late. We must act to stop the trend of government destroying our liberty and by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.