Federalist #10 -- Madison

  A good government is one that controls “the violence of faction”

            Factions can ruin good governance because they bring instability, a disregard for the public good in the conflict between rival parties, and that the largest faction always wins regardless of justice or rights

Faction: a number of citizens who are “united by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to permanent and aggregate interest of the community”

There are two ways to eliminate faction:

1)      Remove the cause of factions which is liberty – “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire”  - obviously we don’t want that

2)      Give every citizen that same opinions, same passions and same interests – but that is impractical because people have different opinions, are self interested, and vary in wealth and property – so factions are natural

These factions necessarily clash over the own interests and we cannon always trust there will be an enlightened statesman to balance these factions – so if we cannot eliminate factions that how do we control them?

n      if it is a minority faction then democracy handles that problem

n      But if there is a majority faction the public good and private rights must be maintained while preserving popular government

So what to do?

            A pure democracy can’t do it

            But a Republic can because

1)      the delegation of government to a small group of people

a.       representatives may be better able to best discern the best interests of the country

b.      But what if the representatives are scumballs?

                                                                                                   i.      They key is in getting the right number of representatives (too few and it’s a cabal, too many and it’s a confused mob)

                                                                                                 ii.      Large countries will offer many able candidates

                                                                                                iii.      Another danger is that you have so many representatives that they become unfamiliar with the circumstances of their constituents while of you have too few you tie the representatives only to their local interests

So the constitution is great because the national legislature will tend towards the big questions of the entire nations while local interests will be handled by the state legislatures

2)      the greater number of citizens and greater sphere that a Republic may contain

a.       The larger a country the more factions and opinions it holds so the possibility of some permanent majority faction is lessened


Madison’s perspective is what we would call “pluralism” which is a belief competition among interests produces balance and compromise – in other words no one group dominates


Arguments opposing pluralism

·        Members of special interest groups tend to be wealthy, educated professionals and because special interest groups are rising in importance that means those values dominate

·        Of the nearly 7,000 special interest groups that were represented in Washington in 1976, more than half were corporations, a third were professional or trade associations, 4 percent were public-interest groups, fewer than 2 percent were civil rights or minority groups – the oil industry alone has 170 groups that represent its interests


Arguments supporting pluralism

bulletThere are tremendous conflicts among politically active elites
bulletThere are tremendous conflicts among businesses (egs sugar subsidies are opposed by candy manufacturers but supported by sugar farmers, high steel tariffs are supported by steel companies but opposed by automobile manufacturers)
Just because an interest group is powerful doesn’t mean it always wins (NRA lost the Brady Act, corporate earnings are doubly taxed, we have a progressive federal tax etc . . .)