Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Core Value: Constitutional Government (4)

One final core value of constitutional government is representation.

In Federalist 9, Hamilton writes:

"It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy, without feeling sensations of horror and disgust,at the distractions with which they continually agitated, and at the rapid succession of revolutions, by which they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration , between extreme of tyranny and anarchy."

Fortunately, he continued, the science of politics has progressed since ancient times. Among the advances is the idea of representation, or what James Madison called "A Republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government."

What is that disease? Factions. Those "petty republics" to which Hamilton were torn apart  by groups of citizens animated by some passion or the pursuit of private interests and advantage against the common good.

The writers of the Constitution believed that factions, too,  plagued the state governments under the original Articles of Confederation.

According to Madison in Federalist 10, it is a "Republic, by which I mean a government in which a scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promised the cure for which we are seeking."

He cites two important differences between the ancient democratic republics and the modern republic created by our constitution: the idea of representation and that the particular scheme of representation in the United States involves large territorial districts.

"The two great points of difference between a Democracy and a Republic are, first, the delegation of the Government, in that latter to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; second, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country over which the later may be extended."

According to Madison, the representative principle will provide a filtration of public opinion that will sift it of passions and narrow private advantage. In this way the common good will emerge.


"The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public view, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizen, whose wisdom may discern the true interest of the country.  and whose patriotism and love of  justice, will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.,  Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good, than if pronounced by the people themselves convened for the purpose."

Moreover, according to Madison, the large electoral districts more likely will encourage the rise of virtuous public spirited men as opposed to demagogues:

"In the next place, as each Representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small Republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidate to practice with success the vicious arts, by which election are too often carried."

Should factions prevail in some instances, the extended size of our republic will serve as a barrier to their spread.


                                               This is what democracy looks like


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