“A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well as speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good.” — James Madison, Federalist Paper 10, November 22, 1787
Madison begins perhaps the most famous of the Federalist papers by stating that one of the strongest arguments in favor of the Constitution is the fact that it establishes a government capable of controlling the violence and damage caused by factions. Madison defines factions as groups of people who gather together to protect and promote their special economic interests and political opinions. Although these factions are at odds with each other, they frequently work against the public interest, and infringe upon the rights of others.
Both supporters and opponents of the plan are concerned with the political instability produced by rival factions. The state governments have not succeeded in solving this problem; in fact, the situation is so problematic that people are disillusioned with all politicians and blame government for their problems. Consequently, a form of popular government that can deal successfully with this problem has a great deal to recommend it.
Given the nature of man, factions are inevitable. As long as men hold different opinions, have different amounts of wealth, and own different amount of property, they will continue to fraternize with people who are most similar to them. Both serious and trivial reasons account for the formation of factions but the most important source of faction is the unequal distribution of property. Men of greater ability and talent tend to possess more property than those of lesser ability, and since the first object of government is to protect and encourage ability, it follows that the rights of property owners must be protected. Property is divided unequally, and, in addition, there are many different kinds of property. And men have different interests depending upon the kind of property they own. For example, the interests of landowners differ from those who own businesses. Government must not only protect the conflicting interests of property owners but must, at the same time, successfully regulate the conflicts between those with and without property.
To Madison, there are only two ways to control a faction: to remove its causes and to control its effects. The first is impossible. There are only two ways to remove the causes of a faction: destroy liberty or give every citizen the same opinions, passions, and interests. Destroying liberty is a "cure worse than the disease itself," and the second is impracticable. The causes of factions are thus part of the nature of man and we must deal with their effects and accept their existence. The government created by the Constitution controls the damage caused by such factions.
The framers established a representative form of government, a government in which the many elect the few who govern. Pure or direct democracies (countries in which all the citizens participate directly in making the laws) cannot possibly control factious conflicts. This is because the strongest and largest faction dominates, and there is no way to protect weak factions against the actions of an obnoxious individual or a strong majority. Direct democracies cannot effectively protect personal and property rights and have always been characterized by conflict.
Madison hoped that the men elected to office will be wise and good men — the best of America. Theoretically, those who govern should be the least likely to sacrifice the public good to temporary condition, but the opposite might happen. Men who are members of particular factions, or who have prejudices or evil motives might manage, by intrigue or corruption, to win elections and then betray the interests of the people. However, the possibility of this happening in a large country, such as the United States, is greatly reduced. The likelihood that public office will be held by qualified men is greater in large countries because there will be more representatives chosen by a greater number of citizens. This makes it more difficult for the candidates to deceive the people. Representative government is needed in large countries, not to protect the people from the tyranny of the few, but to guard against the rule of the mob
Much has been made of the precipitous decline in the level of discourse in the United States. Many attribute this to the coarsening of the language and the ever-widening gulf between the various factions in the political spectrum. However, these factors are a symptom of a current underlying and foundational dilemma: the inability of not only the general public, but nearly all of the so-called societal leaders and opinion-makers to generate an original thought, as well as a stubborn refusal to use reason and logic when confronted with irrefutable facts and arguments.
These traits can be explained, insofar as the general public is concerned, as the consequence of their subjection for the past forty years to a woeful and deliberately incomplete education bordering on indoctrination. However, this factor does not fully explain many of the so-called best and brightest falling into the same abyss and being unable to coherently expound on an original thought or concept. While this is true for a few on the conservative side of the political spectrum, it is overwhelmingly the case among those who self-identify as liberals or progressives.
Those who publicly espouse the statist philosophy do so in age-old and threadbare platitudes. The depth of thought rarely exceeds three basic tenets: 1) capitalism and individual wealth accumulation are evil; 2) only an economy and society dominated and controlled by a powerful central government dominated by utopian masterminds can guarantee fairness of outcome; and 3) anyone who disagrees with 1 and 2 is dangerous, ignorant, and not only greedy, but tyrannical and thus must be relegated to the ash heap of society.
Failing to understand that these tenets have been in existence since the late 1840s, the current proponents act as if they have discovered some new and overwhelmingly successful concept. The failure of those nations that chose to go down this road is conveniently ignored or mired in blissful ignorance. Mindlessly defending American progressivism is all that matters.
This is most evident when the advocates of this errant viewpoint appear on television or the radio to debate or discuss the issues of the day. Whenever conveniently among their fellow-travelers, every conversation immediately degenerates into a creative name-calling or false accusation exercise aimed at any and all on the right who vehemently disagree with the left and their stewardship of the country.
These true-believers never offer any new ideas or concepts on how to improve the lot of the people except to expand government. How or why government bureaucracies coercing additional trillions of dollars from the marketplace and spending it as they see fit would make life better when it has not worked in other countries is not discussed, as that question cannot be answered and is thus ignored. What is not ignored is the unwritten marching order to regurgitate a well-worn script, also conceived in the late 1840s, to undermine, demean, and destroy those who actively oppose the progressive agenda.
Whenever these same proponents appear with the conservative opposition, a pre-programmed recording is switched on. This consists of: Barack Obama is doing a great job considering he inherited the worst situation since the Great Depression; the nation needs to spend more money to solve any and all problems while raising taxes on the evil rich; conservatives are callous and care little for minorities, women, and children; and any overt criticism of President Obama is a subtle expression of racism. When called out on these points and confronted with irrefutable facts, the recording is switched on again and repeated as often as necessary.
This is a manifestation not only of mind-numbed robotic incompetence, but, more importantly, of the necessity of those who traffic in these banalities to be part of what they perceive to be the in-crowd and the absolute necessity to stay in the good graces of the governing class which is predominantly liberal, with access not only to government largess, but to ego-gratifying mainstream news and entertainment media attention. This subservience requires no independence of thought or the ability to generate an original idea. Being a mindless foot soldier for the cause maintains an emotional attachment to the elites.
At the top of the pyramid are the liberal elites and masterminds in government, academia, and the media/entertainment complex. While they may sit in think-tanks, government offices, newsrooms, and faculty lounges, regaling each other demonstrating who may be the smartest in the room, they too are essentially incapable of initiating an original thought or having any independence of mind. In the realm of political theory, the only accepted and promulgated ideology is that of an all-powerful central government controlling the day-to-day lives of the ignorant American populace — a premise that will succeed where others have failed if they, the elites, are given full and unfettered access to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C.
These current leaders of the movement, as personified by Barack Obama, are incapable of admitting any error in their thinking, as they have spent virtually their entire lives in the company of the like-minded. Thus, their superiority to the unwashed masses is unquestioned, and their ability to govern is beyond dispute. Unfettered narcissism is a prerequisite for those who espouse socialist/progressive ideology.
The majority of the American people, asleep during the past sixty years of overwhelming peace and prosperity, are gradually waking up to the massive deception that has been perpetrated by the left and their inability to solve the almost insolvable problems they, in large part, have created. Thus, the tone and nature of political discourse has become more strident, as the left, in an effort to protect their gains, status, and self-image, will do or say anything regardless of the damage it may inflict on the country.
I must admit that I was one of those persons sleeping during the past forty or so years. While engaged in my personal career, running a business, and looking after my family I did not pay much attention to how the country was drifting more and more to the left. Things were going well and I did not pay much attention to the how we were ignoring the founding principles.
Over the past five years I have reawakened to the principles upon which our Republic was founded. I began reading and listening to the true conservative voices. Currently I am enrolled in the Hillsdale College on-line course of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, something I should have done years ago. I am reading the arguments put forth by men like Jefferson, Madison, Mason, Jay, Hamilton, and Montesquieu. These men were not only great thinkers they were civil in their writings. They did not use uncivil language to promote their arguments the way modern politicians and left-wing progressives do today. In fact in the Federalist Paper I reference in this post Madison was in direct conflict with the highly respected Montesquieu in his argument for a republic, something Montesquieu believed would not work for a country with a large population and vast amount of territory. In essence Madison was thinking out of the box of current 1787 thought.
Over the past fifteen years, the intellectual pendulum in the United States has dramatically swung back to those who espouse the tenets of individual freedom as well as free-market capitalism. The phenomenal successes of conservative think-tanks, talk radio, and websites, and the domination of the bestseller lists by not only current conservative authors such as Mark Levin and David Limbaugh, but also increased interest in the writings of historical figures such as Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Frederick Bastiat reflect this seismic shift. With the awakening of the American people and the requisite defeat of Barack Obama as well as the left-dominated Democratic Party in November 2012, the nation can embark on bridging the political gulf and begin to dispatch permanently the failed theories, vitriol, and demagoguery of the self-described progressives and masterminds.