Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Federalist Papers No. 10

By James Madison

In this short essay, Madison talks about the danger of factions within a government. A faction can be a majority or a minority of the citizens, who have a common interest that is averse to the rights of other citizens or to the general interest of the community. He argues that it is impossible to get rid of the causes of factions, since this would mean either destroying liberty or making sure all citizens have the same opinions and interests. Instead he argues that we need to focus on controlling the effects of factions. If a faction is a minority, then the majority can out-vote it in a popular government. However, if the majority attempts to violate the rights or otherwise oppress the minority, it’s a more difficult situation. He argues that for this reason a republic would be better than a pure democracy. The use of representatives ensures that public views are filtered through a chosen body of citizens that apply their wisdom and desire to do what is best for the country. It is important that the number or representatives is kept within a certain number so that there aren’t only a few people ruling and that there are enough representatives to make sure each local constituency is represented, but also ensure that there are few enough to be able to aggregate interests. He also notes that in a republic, a greater number of citizens can be part of the government than in a democracy. This is good, because in a larger country, the government will be less likely to be dominated by a few factions – even if a faction takes hold in one state, within the national government, other states will not be taken over by the same faction.

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