Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Federalist #10 ... continued

Madison continues by defining faction ("a majority or a minority of the whole" united by "some common impulse ... or interest" that is adverse "to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."). Throughout this essay and in other writings by the Founders on this issue, it is clear what they had in mind: public servants who would legislate, administer, and adjudicate only what was in the best interests of the community as a whole.

Factions, by definition, are incapable of providing that.

Madison then lays the foundation for the rest of the essay, that is a discussion of the "two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction": "removing its causes" and "controlling its effects."

He quickly discounts the first method because that would require either ending liberty, as discussed in my previous post, or performing an impossibility: "giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests." The former is a non-starter because liberty was at the core of what the Founders were trying to create. The latter is impossible because of the natural divisions in society caused by "various and interfering interests" such as:
  • "diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate"
  • "the possession of different degrees and kinds of property"
  • "the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors"
  • "zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points"
  • "attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power" who have "divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good"
  • some who are "creditors" and some "debtors," some representing "landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a money interest ..."
Another phrase often misquoted in this section of the essay is: "The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man ..." Again, this is not an endorsement of faction or resignation to its inevitability; only an acknowledgement of nature. The focus of this essay is to provide methodologies for controlling faction as best government can while leaving liberty untouched.

Finally, the last widely misquoted line involves the following sentence: "The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government." Many proponents of party misstate this by concentrating on the second half of the sentence all the while the first half clearly notes that "regulation" of the causes of faction is the "principal task of modern legislation." Not cooperation with faction, not collusion with faction, but "regulation."

Madison then recognizes that no person can be "allowed to be a judge in his own cause," meaning that everyone will naturally serve their own purposes or, in the case of elected representatives, they should represent their constituents' interests. And a group of like-minded legislators ("the most powerful faction") not only must be "themselves the judges," but also "must be expected to prevail." In no way is this an endorsement of faction-function government (that kind of endorsement would not fit with the critique of faction in the previous paragraphs).
It is simply a recognition of the realities of majority-rule assemblies. The prime focus of this essay is resolution of the problem of how "to break and control the violence of faction," not facilitate it.

What governmental structure can by its very nature "break and control" faction? We'll discuss this next as Madison gets into the concepts of a large republic with an appropriate number of representatives all representing their constituents coming together and deliberating for the good of the nation.

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