American Elephants

James Madison, 4th President of the United States, Architect of the Constitution. by The Elephant's Child
April 29, 2015, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , ,

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51

This policy of supplying by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. In private affairs, arranging for ambition to counteract ambition would conduce to prosperity, as the emerging discipline of political economy was arguing. In public affairs it would give mankind a better chance than ever before to overcome the great political difficulty: to “first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself”

In Federalist No. 55, Madison after taking up and attempting to refute hypothetical questions about how the Constitution’s checks and balances might prove too weak to prevent this or that abuse Madison finally throws up his hands. Yes, the “auxiliary precautions’ that make ambition counteract ambition will help sustain a republic But, no, a nation of devils will not form a successful republic, no matter how intelligent they are or how well their state is organized. “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust” Madison wrote, “so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence  of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.

Did we assume too much, presupposing the existence of qualities in human nature that justify esteem and confidence? And they are missing? What then?

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