- Capitalism and Alternatives -

On dealing with factions

Posted by: David ( USA ) on November 25, 1999 at 18:32:40:

In Reply to: O.K. posted by Lark on November 25, 1999 at 12:59:56:

I believe James Madison dealt with this problem a while back....(Note: All quotes are taken from The Federalist No. 10 by James Madison.)

AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a wellconstructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it.

Put simply, what Madison is saying here is that federalism is a safeguard against the power of factions, that it is able to control factions without limiting the principles of a republic; freedom of speech, freedom of action, etc.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.
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.

Simply, you can either take away everyones liberty so that no one can voice their views and beliefs or you can give everybody that same privilege and thus negate any of the factional/sectarian views that are against the welfare of the citizenry.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency. The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves.

I daresay that that one requires no amateur commentary on my part, lest I be accused of patronizing.

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 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 co-operate 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.

I believe we can all agree that people have a tendency to be of different opinions in the way of politics, religion, and such (especially here!).

But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of 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 interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views.

I threw this one in for all you Marxists and socialsists reading this.

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. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed. Let me add that it is the great desideratum by which this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has so long labored, and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind. By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time must be prevented, or the majority, having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression.

Basically what Madison is saying is that in a republic, the views of factions can be systematically voted down, thus safeguarding the public good whilst maintaining the principles of freedom. He says that factions with interests adverse to the public welfare will only be able to thrive locally and in a large republic will constantly be defeated.

So, when we relate these things to your post about militias armed to the teeth, all I can say is that so long as the republic is healthy and thriving, they will not gain any stronghold in this political system. Just about every one of the factions you named are factions indigineous to local areas. You'll never find a chapter of the Michigan Militia in Montana.

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