Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Federalist 10 – Factions

In Federalist 10, Madison argues in favor a republican structure as the only antidote to factions unavoidably created by the differing interests of men. He defines factions as ‘a number of citizens actuated by some common purpose or interest, adverse to the rights of others, or the aggregate interests of the community.’

He finds that factions are inherent to societies of men, “The latent causes of faction are thus sown into the nature of man.”

He finds that they often arise from opinions regarding religion, government and property.

“Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser creditors, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, accentuated by different sentiments and views.”

He deduces that there only two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction, ‘the one by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.’

He further deduced that removing the causes of factions can in turn only be accomplished by two methods, “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.”

The concept of abolishing liberty is without merit; it belies the purpose of government. It is “worse than the disease.” Likewise the “second expedient is as impractical as the first is unwise.”

Consequently, since the causes of factions cannot be removed, Madison argues, controlling the effects of factions is the only possible remedy.

“If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote.”

How then is the minority to be protected from a majority faction? Either by diluting passions or interests such than no majority faction forms, or by setting up an obstacle to the majority faction’s ‘schemes of oppression.’

So, Madison finds that the larger a society is the less likely it is to have majority factions to contend with. The larger the society, the more likely that there are numerous smaller factions. In the second case, where a majority faction already exists, only a republican government can protect the minority.

On why republicanism is superior to direct democracy, he offers, “…to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. …it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves.”

Madison argues that the larger a society was the better it would function as a republic, likewise the union of states would be better prepared to counter a faction than if the states operated independently in all respects. He offers specific examples,

“The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division 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; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.”

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