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  •  In the second chapter of my book, I (1+ / 0-)
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    go through Federalist 10, section by section, to show that Madison was wrong, not in his understanding of the cause and effects of factions, but in his proposals for how to deal with them.

    As to the causes of faction, Madison was quite explicit and clear. Here is another excerpt from my book in which I address this point:

    Madison told us the origin of factions, and how they pass their time:
    The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for preeminence 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. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.
    Factions arise out of human nature. Some men join together in pursuit of goals that are harmful to the public good. Other men, also examples of human nature, work together in pursuit of the public good. Unfortunately, Madison’s centuries-old description of the effects of faction gives us strong evidence that the Framers were not able to create a system that would keep our government focused on the common good and thereby free of faction. His remarks accurately capture the political environment of our modern world. “Mutual animosity” perfectly describes the interactions between the Democratic and Republican parties of our era. And religion plays an important role in our political life. And who can disagree with Madison’s prediction that Democrats and Republicans would be “more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good.” And, I, for one, am weary of hearing our politicians raise a furor over “frivolous and fanciful distinctions.” Because of the persistence of human nature, factions are alive and well in 21st century America—and so are the men who form them. These men can be found in any institution, and they can occupy positions of great power.

    The Framers went to the trouble to describe the characteristics of these men. In Federalist 1, Hamilton said (emphasis added):

    Of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.
    In Federalist 10, Madison said (emphasis added):

    Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people.

    Later, near the end of his second term as President, George Washington published his Farewell Address, and said this about men who form and control factions (emphasis added):

    They [factions] are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people.
    I made a list of the definitions of the words I emphasized in the preceding quotations and found that the Framers had identified the characteristics of very dangerous men:  

    •    factious—“addicted to form parties or factions and raise dissensions”
    •    prejudice—“an unreasonable predilection, inclination, or objection”
    •    sinister—“evil or productive of evil”
    •    intrigue—“to cheat or trick”
    •    corruption—“impairment of integrity, virtue or moral principle”
    •    betray—“to prove faithless or treacherous to”
    •    obsequious—“exhibiting a servile and sycophantic complaisance”
    •    demagogue—“a politician who seeks to gain personal or partisan ad-vantage by specious or extravagant claims, promises or charges,”
    •    tyrant—“an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution”
    •    cunning—“marked by wiles, craftiness, artfulness, or trickery in attain-ing ends, ability to mislead or trap,”
    •    ambitious—“eager for rank, fame or power—pretentious, showy,”
    •    unprincipled—“a lack of moral principles—conscienceless,”
    •    subvert—“to bring to nothing, destroy, or greatly impair the existence, sovereignty, influence, wholeness of, especially by insidious undermining”

    The Framers were describing men who were troublemakers, who were inclined to do evil, who were not trustworthy. They would lie to get what they wanted, and they were without personal integrity. They were clever, they would lay traps for the unwary, and they had no conscience.

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

    by hestal on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 06:11:16 AM PDT

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