We have before us The Federalist Number 10. I’d like to say a word about The Federalist. As you know, it was here (in Philadelphia) that the Constitution, that infamous document, was signed. It was a document that was already well on its road to destruction in my mind. When people ask me, “Well, when did the Constitution die?” I say, “September 17th, 1787, when the convention ended.” The Framers and signers of the Constitution went away with sort of different notions about what they had done, and shortly after the Constitution was sent through the Congress to the States for ratification, the Federalists, Mr. Alexander Hamilton, Mr. James Madison, and Mr. John Jay began a series of newspaper articles in New York to convince a State that was two-thirds Anti-Federalist that the Constitution was a good idea. And those papers, which became known thanks to Clinton Rosser as the Federalist Papers but more affectionately, The Federalist, appeared as the definitive statement of American politics for a long period of time. And those papers were a systematic treatment of the various issues and concerns that the Federalists wanted people to understand were the way properly to understand it. Those familiar with those papers know that the world was spared gracefully by God of having to read more by Mr. Jay by his having been hit in the head by a brick through his carriage (which truly was a missile from God), and that left really Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Madison to write most of the Papers. And you will recall from the first Federalist that Mr. Hamilton said “that it seems to be reserved to the people of this country to decide by their conduct and example, whether governments forever would depend upon accident and force or whether they could be a consequence of reflection and choice.” Now, Mr. Hamilton, a lawyer and no mean one at that (at least in one use of the word mean), spoke about the debate over the Constitution and made very clear that he thought people hoped to evince the justness of their claims by the loudness of their declamations. Now, Mr. Hamilton assured us that unlike the opponents of the Constitution, one could trust what the Federalists said: “My motives must remain in the depository of my own breast, but my arguments are laid out clear and plain for everyone to see. Honesty disdains ambiguity.” Now, that’s about as Machiavellian a statement as you could begin a series of papers with, and it was followed by a series by Jay calling for oneness. Federalist Number 10 was preceded by the notorious Federalist Number 9 (not unexpectedly by Mr. Hamilton). And Mr. Hamilton began to talk in Number 9 about enlarging the orbit; Number 10 is about the question of size. One of the great questions that was raised by the Anti-Federalists was, “How big is too big? Just who is going to buy the notion that you can have a government that runs from New England to Georgia and still maintain Liberty?” So that was the problem, really, that they faced. However they defined Federalism, the Anti-Federalists’ concern was about separation of powers. There was probably some consensus about decentralization of power, but size was the real issue.
Federalist Number 10 is a model essay. Now, those who have heard me talk about Number 10 before haven’t come to hear me repeat what I’ve said, but to imagine that I can say in the confines of an hour what I spent nine hours talking about: The opening paragraph. So, considering there are twenty-three paragraphs, we’d better hurry. This is an almost perfect essay. It is an essay that has an introduction. It has a body. It has a conclusion. It is marked by the Madisonian two-step. “There are two ways of dealing with this problem, there are two ways of dealing with that.” You can hardly ever be lost, but if you follow me, you will soon be in that condition. Being a modern essay, it has certain characteristics. “Modern essay” in contrast with an ancient essay, and an ancient essay might be something like Plato’s Republic, which begins with that kind of mushy doxa and continues to paradoxa, and it leads to more and more conclusions. Those familiar with the Republic know the question opens with something small, like: “What is justice?” And then it goes on and on and on, and as the first book rolls to a close, we hear, Socrates say: “Like a glutton, never having settled anything, we have really learned nothing.”
Well, moderns didn’t like that, you see, because moderns like to have definitions. They like to have a problem that they can invent. So, the problem that Mr. Madison invents, he says in the opening line of Federalist Number 10: “Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of factions.” Now, right away the question is: “Well, who are these factions, Mr. Madison? “He surely couldn’t be talking about himself since we know no honourable man from Virginia could possibly be a faction. So, he’s not just interested in faction; he’s interested in the violence of faction. Now, you know, one of the charges against this very interesting essay is that there wasn’t anybody who took this argument seriously. And I suspect not even Mr. Madison, (although he repeated it so often, I suspect either the heavy drink or his mind really did cause him to believe what he announced over and over and over to no response). You know, generally, if you say something and no one responds you say: “Well, I think I’ll stop mentioning that.” But not Mr. Madison. He’s a quick Virginian and he’s not about to be outdone by less intelligent people.
So, Mr. Madison has this problem of the violence of faction. Now you will remember one of the things the Founding Fathers seemed to have forgotten about, (which is a little surprising), is political parties, because it does seem that you didn’t have to have come very far from Britain to have understood that interests and factions were a critical part of the British model, why they thought this wouldn’t be a problem. As we all know, by 1801 it was a very real problem, at least if we asked Mr. Jefferson (who took thirty-two votes to be elected President of the United States by the House of Representatives): “Do you think we have a party problem here in America?” The answer is “yes,” by 1800. He was very clear: “Parties were very much alive.” So, what exactly does Madison mean by faction? Now, fortunately being a very modern essay, he provides an answer:
“By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
That’s his definition. Now, let’s ask ourselves what we think that means. Is the National Rifle Association a faction? Leave aside the question of what the “violence of faction” would be. I suppose the “violence of faction” would be if the NRA all armed themselves and showed up at the State House (as they did in the wilds of Pennsylvania) and said: “We want something done.” Now, that that might be considered a faction (one that’s armed, too), but is any interest that we can think of that goes to our current legislature a faction? Because one thing we must realize, I think, is that something looks different today than it did then. No one doubts that when you went to the legislature in the beginning, it was kind of small, not only in terms of the numbers of legislators, but in terms of the claims that were raised against the legislative body. I’m going to pick on the Democrat Party, because it’s so much clearer, but let me say that I don’t think there’s a plug nickel’s worth of difference between a big “R” Republican and a big “D” Democrat, except for who gets the goods out of the government. They both believe the definition of politics is: “The radical redistribution of previously stolen goods.” That’s their operating premise. “Somebody has gold, I’m going to get it and I’m going to give it to my friends.” They just happen to be different friends. That’s how the system works. So, when I say big “D” Democrats, I don’t mean just to pick on them, but if you see the Democratic Party, when it assembles it looks like the largest collection of misfits that could ever be gathered into one place. So, the Lesbian Left-handed Letter Opener Society joining with the with the Right-handed Chicano Lettuce Pickers, joining with such-and-such. And you get this array of claims, see, because they’re all going to go to the government to get something out of it. Now are those the kind of factions that Mr. Madison imagined?
Well, Mr. Madison says, “I’m trying to avoid the violence.” I don’t believe him. Let me make very clear that I don’t like Mr. Madison. I don’t trust him. He is from Virginia. He is not to be trusted. And if you read Federalist Number 45 and Number 46, I think Mr. Madison’s scheme was clear: He wanted to use force against the States. Now, those people who are in love with Mr. Madison, which is nearly everyone I’ve ever met and certainly everyone in Virginia. The only problem people in Virginia have is whether to love Mr. Jefferson more than Mr. Madison. It’s a schizophrenic state. Nevertheless, if you read Federalist 45, the real question is the use of force against the States. Now, if somebody comes to me and he lays a gun on the table and says: “I have a contract. Now don’t worry about the gun, it doesn’t have to do with anything, it’s just handy.” I reply: “I know, I carry one myself.” So, right away, I’m suspicious. It’s impossible to bring order to Madison’s thought. The only thing that makes Madison look stable is the fact that he’s running against Mr. Jefferson, that between the two of them, there is nothing they haven’t said. I think this Constitution is a conspiracy of Federalists in Virginia and South Carolina and Mr. Washington and the others are not happy with what comes out, but they’ll be happy with the result.
So, here’s the story. Here’s our legislature with all those interests who are coming together to get the goose that lays the golden egg, and Mr. Madison says: “I’ll tell you how to solve this problem of faction.” Now I still didn’t know what the problem is, because you’ll remember, “adverse to the rights of the other citizens.” The question is what is that? Because the citizen shows up and says: “I have a right, sir, to marry another man,” and I say, “Sir, do you confuse me with some dufus from Hawaii? Do you think for one minute, I will agree to such a thing? That it is a right, that is, it may be something that one is obligated to bestow upon other people in terms of honouring their particular arrangements?” Rights are not necessarily the proper term. Ask yourself what the permanent and aggregate interests of the community are, because on the surface, it seems to be clear that if we had stuck with what the original plan was – to provide for national defense and to do those kinds of things – we probably wouldn’t have gotten ourselves into the centralist nightmare that we’ve ended up with. As a matter of fact, we’re willing to argue that we’re not particularly good even at the things we claim we were going to do. Granted, we are safe, but I tell you that is more by the grace of God, than it is the planning of people who run the country. And for those of us who live in the Southeast, you can’t feel a bit safe as the entire border is overrun by 1 million illegal aliens a year while people in the country rest comfortably because they are bombing Afghanistan. It’s a very interesting question about what’s going on.
So, Mr. Madison says, “I have the solution,” and I say, “I don’t see the problem yet. I don’t have a problem. Leave me alone.” And he says: “This is what we do. We’re going to expand the sphere, see, because I am telling you we cannot remove the causes of faction. We just can’t do it. So, what we’re going do is we’re going to expand the sphere and we’re going to bring more and more factions.” So, right away I say: “Do you mean the Left-handed Lesbian Letter Openers? Is that the faction that you’re talking about bringing in?” He says: “Don’t be silly.” Mr. Madison’s notion is to increase the sphere. We’re going bring more people together and, of course, there’s going to be a delay in the decision-making. So, let’s imagine the argument is (incidentally it’s a false argument, as Mr. Hamilton makes very clear in Federalist 35), but let’s imagine there’s a bucket, and Mr. Madison believes this bucket is the political process, the society. The whole bucket is the society, and at the bottom of the bucket is a quantity of cement. Well, the cement is the society and above the cement are these marbles we’re putting in. We put these marbles into the bucket and then we turn it on. Now, in the cement, the society, there are three giant rods that are in the society: One is religion, one is family, and one is education. Around this bucket are two giant shields. The outer shield is limited government and the inner shield is Federalism. The outer shield says: “Government is restricted in what it can do and how it can go about doing what it is assigned to do.” And federalism, the outer shield, said in those days that there were certain things the State governments could do and certain things that the national government could not do. There were things States could do that were off limits to the general government. Now, as you know, Federalism received its heaviest blow in 1865. That’s the reason why Lord Acton could write to Robert E. Lee in 1866 and say: “I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.” Now, when you hear anybody on that side of the island compare the American War Between the States with the question of Waterloo, since the British are madly in love with themselves, one can’t imagine what that statement is! The problem that, as Isaac Berlin and the others argue, there is a confounding of Liberty. To set men free of slavery does not necessarily increase by one iota the liberty of the whole. The question of liberty is distinct from the question of equality, which is distinct from the question of justice, which is distinct from a whole set of other problems, and if we fuse them together as if they’re all one-and-the-same, we will not have made much progress.
So, the bucket which had these two great shields and the cement in the bottom had these marbles in the system. There weren’t very many marbles to begin with. There were mercantile interests, farming interests, (or property interests as Mr. Hamilton called them), and professional interests. Those were what Hamilton thought were the three great interests in society. There were probably others who wanted to get into the bucket, but they got left out. And what happens is you put these marbles in and they are going to roll around, and out of this system, with a kind of shooting arrow and a star at the top, will come justice. This is why Mr. Madison said in Federalist 51: “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society.” So, we turn this machine on and these marbles are gonna roll around, and some farmer from Georgia is gonna show up. (That’s all there were other than criminals). So, they would show up in the legislative body and roll around somehow with some kind of Mercantile interest of New York, and out would come public policy, and we would announce it to be justice. Hardly anyone says: “Turn your political system on and produce some injustice.” In this kind of process, there’s no substance to justice. Justice in this matter becomes purely procedural. You extend the sphere, you increase the number of marbles, and by increasing the number one leads to a diversity. Diversity leads to a delay in the decision-making process, delay leads to a deliberation, deliberation leads to a filtering, and filtering leads to justice. It’s a very clean kind of process. The problem with this bucket-and-marble model is that there are a number of presumptions necessary for that to work.
One of the presumptions necessary for that model to work is that no one wins a complete victory. By 1828, South Carolina knew what Virginia still could not catch onto (partly because Virginia continued to take advantage of the Union and let the South be damned). South Carolina had come to the conclusion that something was radically wrong, that one part of the Union, and particularly South Carolina, increasingly bore the burden of supporting the entire government. Virginia, in the meanwhile, had sold out the Southern States by arguing against the importation of slaves so that the home production of them would lead to the increase of slaves in Virginia, which would allow for their sale at a large profit. On the eve of the Civil War, those nasty people in Virginia had yet a new scheme, which was the manumission of the slaves and the sale of them to the general government. Well, Mr. Calhoun and the others knew exactly what that meant: There was impending trouble on the horizon. But the notion, at least at this point, is that we can set aside these matters and we won’t have to look at them yet. Now, in the political system, these marbles that roll around also had some that were not very roll-able. You’ll remember we said on some things you can get compromise on other things you can’t get compromise. Slavery was one of the matters on which you could not get compromise. So, they are in the political system, they don’t dissolve like the others, they don’t roll like the others, and they will lock your system up and eventually throw it into chaos. The Constitution did not fail. What failed was the people’s understanding of how the Constitution ought to work, and hence what Mr. Calhoun refers to in the Disquisition: That the majority party will come to adopt a policy of loose construction of the Constitution, and they will set about to change the meaning of it. And, as Mr. Calhoun says in the Disquisition, when that looseness fails to give them the latitude necessary to achieve their schemes, they will resort to force.
Now, Mr. Madison says: “Look, stay calm. This is not a problem. I promise you it will work.” But notice what Mr. Madison says in the famous seventh and eighth paragraphs of Federalist 10:
“The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.”
Now, with that notion of human nature, you ought to be kind of careful, because the argument is not that people are bad.; it’s just that they want kill one another. So, you know, you get nervous when the guy who says that is also the guy who’s telling you: “Oh, it’s gonna work, this Constitution will work.” This coming from the guy who says human beings will kill each other over minor and unimportant differences. I think it’s interesting to see the difference of opinion as to what differences are minor. For example, take the old believers and the new believers of Russia. Imagine there is somebody today who stands in the front of the church waiting to see people enter, to see whether they dip their hands into the font with three fingers or two, and this person kills those who do it with the wrong number of fingers. We would consider this a fanciful and frivolous distinction, but for people who believe that not doing things correctly will send you instantly into the gates of Hell, it’s hardly a fanciful and frivolous distinction. So, one of the questions that Mr. Madison has posed for us is that people are going to be radically divided. But, says Mr. Madison: “Don’t worry, our solution is at hand.” In the eighth paragraph Madison admits that:
“No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of citizens? And what are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine?”
So, Mr. Madison acknowledges that if you have a system directed by majority rule, the majority in time will come to have its integrity corrupted just in the nature of the operation of the political model. Having made those concessions, Mr. Madison says: “Fortunately we have found the solution and the solution is to be found in the two-step distinction between republican government and democracy.” Says Mr. Madison: “No one is in favor of democracy.” According to Mr. Madison, the twofold advantages of a republican government are that there will be representatives rather than the people themselves making the decisions, and that a republic can be extended over an increasingly large sphere. So, that’s the solution. I propose we do some thinking about our bucket, never losing sight of it, because now the story will become increasingly complex, let us imagine that we were to examine the presumptions that Mr. Madison makes. He says that the first advantage of a republic over a democracy is that:
“The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is your representatives to Congress today – disinterested, patriotic, and just men and women. Now, most people don’t believe that for a minute, but that’s the theme, and the argument is that public policy announced by policy makers is more consonant with the public good than policies announced by the public itself. If you let the public decide what to do about the Panama Canal, they might not want to give it to a dictator. Oh, but we had no trouble. We gave it away to a dictator and then went down and arrested him and tried him in Federal court against all forms of international and national law. Mr. Madison’s proposition that these representatives will selflessly serve the public beggars belief. Maybe it’s just in Texas, but surely by now everyone knows elections do not produce wise, patriotic, and just men. What they produce is crafty, smart, cunning, calculating, and most importantly, self-seeking individuals. Now, of course they’re concerned with the public good. When was the last time you heard a politician run for office who says: “My goal is to screw the public. I want my act of the legislature to benefit only Nebraska! To Hell with the other 49 States. I realize I’ll have to wallow like a pig with the rest of them so that I can get what I want, but it’s all for the public good.” No one says that. And we know that there is nothing that commands their attention as much as re-election. Nothing. I mean, if you said to them: “Look, man, if you don’t do anything, you’ll get elected,” that’s what they’ll do. If you say: “You need to do X to get elected,” that’s what they’ll do. And no election is more intense, I assure you, ladies and gentlemen, than the fifth term of a U.S. Congressman, which is when he dips into your pocket for the very last time for his retirement fund. You know, they have to last ten years really to get hold of that loot. They hold onto that office like it’s the last tit of the she-wolf.
Madison goes on to say: “Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people.” It could happen. I mean, it just might happen that people would lie to you. I know that’s hard for us to imagine, but it might be that a politician would not tell the truth. The Anti-Federalists critiqued Madison’s design extensively. I think Melancton Smith is among my favorite. He made things very clear: “If you adopt this political model you will produce a group of aristocrats who will seize hold of this regime and never let go of it.” That, I believe, is the U.S. Senate. I lived in great fear that South Carolina might name Strom Thurmond as their other Senator, since the Constitution does not require that your Senator be living. These people are not easily moved out of office. Sometimes even death is not sufficient to send them on their way. Then Madison says the Union has to be made bigger. More States need to be added, because:
“…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 candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to centre (sic) in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters.”
Now what is Madison talking about? Well, Madison said: “Look, extend the sphere, take in more people,” and suddenly he says, because this is a subjunctive statement, “if the number of fit characters does not decline, then the number of fit characters to choose from will increase.” Well, that seems logical. I mean, if I have four people and I’m gonna pick one out of the four to be a representative, and there’s only one out four who is fit, I have to pick the one. If I increase the electorate to twelve, I now have three fit characters and I can pick one of them. The problem is, the number of unfit characters also increases. Mr. Madison didn’t talk anything about them because that would be rather inconvenient. As the number of characters increases, it might become increasingly hard to tell the unfit characters from the fit characters. So, when your representative comes from 30,000 people, there might be some hope that you would know him. When your number gets up to 500,000 per representative, there is no hope that most people in that electorate would know him. The question is, will you just pick up the phone? You call your Councilman whom you know personally, and then he says: “I’ll have someone out there within the hour,” fourteen city trucks arrive, they solve the problem, and the neighbors think you’re a god. That’s how government used to work. I mean, it used to work in the sense that you knew the person and if you didn’t get results, you told him about it, and if he was nasty about it, you could burn down his house. In the old days there was a sort of hands on kind of interaction. People wouldn’t put up with the nonsense they put up with today, the kind of notion that government telling them that they couldn’t have an election because they hadn’t counted all the Eskimos in their particular village. One of the great lines out of John Locke, I think it’s magnificent: “The first time anyone tries to disrupt elections, surely they will be disqualified forever having the public trust.” What are Federal judges but one constant interference with the question of elections? In the old days, they wouldn’t have put up with it. Georgia didn’t put up with it in Chisholm v. Georgia. They laid down a statute declaring that anyone who would try to implement Chisholm v. Georgia should be hanged by the neck without benefit of clergy. Now, those were sort of lunatics, you might argue, but they were my kind of lunatics, the kind of people who had some sense that they were determined to be a free people.
Mr. Madison’s regime of extending the sphere has another big problem. The one great thing about the American regime? It is the Machiavellian dream. Those familiar with Niccolò Machiavelli will remember, among the many pieces of advice he gave was this: “It is given to many to see with their eyes, but few to feel with their hands.” And that’s what has happened to representation in the country. “It is given to everyone to see with their eyes, but hardly anyone to feel with their hands.” Now, in the days of television that has only been magnified a thousand percent. One has so little notion of the real character of the people you’re dealing with, since we all know they manipulate the information that’s provided so that they come out in the best possible light. We know that we don’t really know what’s going on. That’s a smoke-and-mirror filled place. It’s a very complicated regime. It’s a big regime. People understand their responsibilities in different ways. Madison’s argument was that as you expand the sphere, the number of marbles who roll around and compete will cause there to be this delay in deliberation, we’re going to get a filter, and we’re gonna get justice and fairness. There would be no complete victors in the United States. Everyone would have their turn. This plan failed to account for something. For it to be true, it required that members of Congress had to be retarded. I say that because it goes something like this. Let’s imagine that your Congressman is not retarded, which I have no trouble believing because most people who get elected are very skilled people. They tend to be articulate. They’re quick witted. They’re quick speaking. They look good. When is the last time you said: “Well, that guy’s ugly as sin, he ought to be my representative?” Generally, they are smart people when they get to the legislature. You can’t amass that kind of support either financially or intellectually without being smart. So, we turn on our bucket, right? We roll those marbles. Those marbles roll around, and out comes justice. And they repeat the process a few times. Well, strangely enough, unless you’re retarded, you begin to see the pattern. So rather than going back to square one, you say: “Bill voted this way this time, I’ll bet Bill will vote the same way next time, and I’ll bet you I can cut a deal with Bill so that the third time we can ruin Frank.”
So, the model started out rather simply. They had decisions to make and they made them. There were some opportunities for corruption, but they were limited and tended to be caught out and stopped. The government was kept pretty small. It had no money. That helps, because once you get hold of the golden goose, people will start coming begging for eggs, and that’s one of the things that happened more and more as time went on. The model kept operating, and in the 19th century the government had to get into the business of abortion because women were dying. Part of the problem was, if you lived down there on the prairie and you had nine children and the mother died, you had a problem because there was no one to take care of the children. So, they had to try to break the control of at least one of those rods, religion. As the rods are extracted from the cement, the number of interests in the political arena begins to increase, and as the amount of societal agreement declines, which if I understand the model right, was the clear intention of Mr. Madison. Now, that’s a pretty nasty statement, but I think it’s accurate. Mr. Madison favoured the Constitution because he was very concerned about the vices of the current model (the Articles of Confederation). One of the vices he was concerned about were those pesky local communities and their churches because they used to say: “People in little communities are not very tolerant.” And you know what? In general, they’re not very tolerant to outsiders. That’s the nature of little communities. If you live with a group of Baptists, you think like a Baptist, and if you live with a group of Huguenots, you think like a Huguenot. The same is true of Episcopalians or Jews or whoever else. They think like their own people. That’s why Roger Williams and the others took off to Rhode Island. They said: “I think people in Massachusetts don’t like us. I think they’re not very nice to us here. I think we’ll move away.” However, with that unit, there was an enormous diversity allowed for people who were in the little village. Every little village had an idiot and everyone knew who he was (and it wasn’t the representative in government). I mean, it was the village idiot (as he was called) and everyone understood that. So, internal to the village, there was a degree of toleration for diversity and in every sense of the word. And I could be mistaken, but I’ll bet that in every little community in the country, whether they were Jews, Huguenots, Baptists, or Catholics, there were probably some misfits and everyone suspected them of being misfits, but nobody raised a big issue about it. You know, if it’s true that there are a certain number of gay people in the world, I’ll bet you there were a certain number of gay people in the world even back then, and they lived in communities far more constrained, perhaps, than they live in now, but they lived in those communities.
Madison says: “We need to break that. Those local little communities are violating people’s rights.” The question is, what does that mean? What rights are we talking about? And the way to do that, you’ll remember, is to get them to enter the political arena. And once they enter the political arena, they will become more enlightened. They will understand that having sex with a billy goat is quite a natural kind of affair. Now, most of us say that doesn’t look natural at all, but they will come and they’ll say: “You are prejudiced. You are coming with your religious code.” Make no mistake about it, the religious code dominates the arena. And societies, then, as the political arena comes into conflict with the social arena, begin to feel the tension and the number of interests in the model begin to fill up. And as the number of interests fill up, it gets increasingly hard to be a representative. Not only are you representing greater numbers of people so that the population does not know you, but the number of interests you have to deal with increases so substantially that you have to be an expert on everything. Congress’s response to that has been to be an expert on nothing. They will divide themselves into committees and they will now be experts on such complicated questions as the number of paperclips in the Pentagon. They have to do that to survive; otherwise they could not attend to public policy. This means that they have to increasingly depend upon parties and log rolling to keep the system running, which means there’s less and less filtering and more and more confusion. By way of analogy, I would say this. When I was in college, I lived in the dorms and I watched a young man come in with two large duffle bags full of clothes. He opened up the machine and he stuffed one bag in and the machine was full, but that didn’t stop him. He stuffed the second bag in and then went away. And I thought: “I wonder if he thinks it runs by itself.” He then came back with a third big bag and squeezed them in. Then he threw the soap in, put the money in the machine, and walked away. Now, anybody who knows a washing machine knows that that’s not going to be very effective. The fact that it was the dryer that he put them in is beside the point.
Now, to be fair to Mr. Madison I must say that he may have thought that no people would be stupid enough to extend itself over the size of the sphere that we have. But we never thought about that. We just kept going and going and going, and it got bigger and bigger and bigger. The destruction of the local community that Mr. Madison was committed to has been incredibly successful, and the breakdown of that, combined with the increase of population and the increase in the number of interests in the political model, has turned Federalist Number 10 into a theoretical nightmare. The only way out of that quagmire is to begin systematically to disassemble the functions of the government. But that is an enormously complicated task that neither political party is committed to. How many times have I heard Republicans say: “We are going to abolish the Department of Education,” only to find that the Department of Education continues to increase? And a Yankee President from the wilds of Texas will announce: “Our policy is to leave no child behind.” I say to myself: “The Federal government should leave every child behind. Let those people in Mississippi raise their children as they want them raised.” We need courage. We need the confidence required to restore to others the capacity to make mistakes. To succeed in some things requires a degree of failure, but we refuse to let anyone fail. And if people build their house in Florida and the wind comes and blows it down, it is not our responsibility to rebuild it. It is their responsibility to rebuild or move. That question of responsibility and size is what’s at stake, and we need to rethink that question. I remind people all the time of that magnificent notion that one needs to be bold in one’s thinking, moderate in one’s behavior, and courageous to speak our mind against others, so that, in the words of St. Cecilia, we too might say: “Lord make safe our Republic and hear our prayer until that day when we too shall be called before thee.” Thanks very much.
Acton to Lee, 4 Nov. 1866. https://leefamilyarchive.org/papers/letters/transcripts-unknown%20sources/u020.html