Monday, October 10, 2016

Pol. Ideology 68, On factions and diversity in society, thoughts of James Madison

The fourth President of the USA (1809-1817), James Madison, was a political philosopher and stateman before he rose to Presidency. Below are some of his writings in The Federalist Papers in 1767, about factions in society:

" 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.

"As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed.... The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

"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. 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."

-- James Madison, The Federalist Papers, Federalist no. 10, November 1787.

Factions, diversity and inequality among people is natural and inevitable if society is free. Individual freedom allows people to choose their fate, to be lazy or hardworking, complacent or ambitious. So from such liberty, acquisition of private property (from cell phones to tv, cars and offices) is inevitable, and it is an important function of government to protect private property.

Since inequality and diverging economic interests is inevitable, a minimum degree of regulation, not zero regulation, is necessary to protect the people's right to property and right to liberty, without resorting to violence and heavy coercion resulting in property expropriation.

Good comments from an Iloilo-based American friend, Bruce Hall, 3 years ago when I posted the above points in my fb wall. Bruce wrote,

"Let me, the lecturer in history, put Madison's quote into context. To Madison and other 18th Century American political thinkers, factions were evil things. Factions, as opposed to interests, were permanent organizations of politicians who worked to increase their organizations power and wealth, bending the powers of the government to favor them. They were in short organized special interests, that continued issue across issue. Parties if you will (and the American Founders were adamantly against parties, structuring the Constitution as best they could to prevent the formation of parties). This needs to be contrasted with different positions on a particular issue. There will always be multiple sides on any single issue. But those sides are not permanent. They do not continue once the issue is resolved. Nonoy and I might be opponents on Issue A but on Issue B we are allies. Factions are always opposed to each other, across the issues.

Americans were opposed to factions -- or special interests -- and this was an argument against creating a federal government out of the 13 original states. Those arguing against federalism and in favor of separate or nearly separate countries -- those arguing against centralization -- argued that a central federal government will be used by factions (special interests) to favor themselves over the public good. Madison argued in the Federalist paper, in favor of a federal state, in favor of more centralization, that factions exist in human nature. Freedom and human nature creates factions. They will exist regardless of what the political structure is.

This is an important point. The main argument against freedom today -- made by the fascists, communists, social engineers and others -- is that human nature is malleable (by the advocates). That one can create a better world with a strong hand at the top controlling and shaping. That governments properly structure can bring about heaven on earth. Madision, I think, would argue that no human beings are flawed fallen creatures that governments must take our flaws into consideration. Factionalism is one of our flaws. Much as we may hate it, there is no way to get rid of it. We can suppress it artificially with violence but that will not last long Eventually human nature -- like the ocean eroding a cliff -- will win out.

By the way, in my experience, the only way to overcome division is to allow it full expression. Allow the sides to fight it out fairly, openly and honestly. Eventually one side wins and the other loses, and since nobody likes losing, they give up. When debate, argument, discussion the natural course towards resolution is stopped. The division festers. Eventually it explodes, a la Libya, Eqypt, Yugoslavia, the Sudan, Somalia, Iraq."

Good points by Bruce there. Meanwhile, more from Madison below.

"The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.

"It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

"The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS." -- Madison.

There, enlightened/unselfish/non-compromised statesmen and leaders, will never be able to fix such clashing interests even if they wish to. And even if they can, they will not be around for long. If the structure for their central adjudication, central planning is created and made permanent, a greater danger of scoundrels taking the place of those enlightened statesmen will surface.

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