This is just a short summary of an important part of James Madison’s essay #10 – on factions or groups with opposing points of view. (You can read all of essay #10 by clicking HERE.)
Madison is precise in his explanation of factionalism, granting that conflicts of interests are inherent in human nature, and he recognized that, as a consequence, people fall into various groups.
He wanted to avoid a situation in which any one group controlled the decisions of a society.
- Free elections and the majority principle protected the country from dictatorship, that is, the tyranny of a minority.
- However, he was equally concerned about the greater risk of tyranny of the majority.
Madison’s aim was to articulate how such risk of tyranny can be avoided through working with the inevitable existence of factions that exist in any form of government. The key: WORK with factions; DON’T TRY TO ELIMINATE THEM..
A healthy Constitutional Republic thrives when there are opposing points of view and constructive debate prompts a thoughtful consensus in decision making. If efforts to silence the opposition – from the right or the left – are stifled, LIBERTY AND FREEDOM WILL BE THE VICTIMS!!
REMEMBER THIS WHETHER YOU ARE CONSERVATIVE OR LIBERAL!
In a representative democracy it is not only important to guard against the oppression of rulers; it is equally important to guard against the injustice which may be inflicted by certain citizens or groups.
Majorities often threaten the rights of minorities.
According to James Madison whose thoughts shaped the Constitution of the United States, there are only two methods of avoiding evil.
- The first is to construct a powerful government – a “community will.” Such a “will’ is larger than, and independent of, the simple majority. This “simple majority solution” is dangerous because such a government might throw its power behind a group in society working against the public good. In our country, the authority to govern comes from the entire society.
- Second, under the Constitution, society is divided into many groups of people who hold different views and have different interests. This makes it very difficult for one group to dominate or threaten the minority groups.
Justice is the purpose of government and civil society. If government allows or encourages strong groups to combine together against the weak, liberty will be lost and anarchy will result. And the condition of anarchy tempts even strong individuals and groups to submit to any form of government, no matter how bad, which they hope will protect them as well as the weak.
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