Welcome login | signup
Language en es fr
OccupyForum

Forum Post: When are parties useful? Part I.

Posted 2 years ago on Jan. 10, 2012, 4:26 p.m. EST by zymergy (236)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Political parties have been around since the founding of our Republic, yet there is no mention of them in the U.S. Constitution, although there are several references to factions and political parties in the Federalist Papers, written in defense of the Constitution prior to ratification. Many of Hamilton’s references to parties in these Federalist Papers are actually references to the various States. However in Madison’s Paper The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection [continued], the party is considered separately from the State interest:

“ Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority. “

Madison, in this Paper, also equates faction with party, and argues against direct democracy. He goes on to propose:

“Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic,--is enjoyed by the Union over the States composing it. Does the advantage consist in the substitution of representatives whose enlightened views and virtuous sentiments render them superior to local prejudices and schemes of injustice? It will not be denied that the representation of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite endowments. Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase this security. Does it, in fine, consist in the greater obstacles opposed to the concert and accomplishment of the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority? Here, again, the extent of the Union gives it the most palpable advantage.

“The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.”.

In the above, Madison clearly did not anticipate national parties, nor a two-party system of government, much less having the two parties both controlled by the same interest or faction.

A searchable electronic version of the Federalist Papers is available at http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/

15 Comments

15 Comments


Read the Rules
[-] 4 points by nucleus (3291) 2 years ago

Parties are useful when there are more than two (the current illusion of two parties not withstanding). With numerous parties coalitions must be formed between them in order to accomplish anything, which is pretty much how parliamentary systems work.

Funny how we set up a parliamentary system in Iraq but can't have one here for ourselves ...

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 2 years ago

Yet, the Federalist Papers suggest that Madison and Hamilton initially expected that political parties would play a minor role in Federal government policy and processes; that the various States would act more like parties and these would be represented in Congress.

Are parliamentary governments any better off than are we today?

[Removed]

[-] 0 points by TIOUAISE (2526) 2 years ago

"Funny how we set up a parliamentary system in Iraq but can't have one here for ourselves ..."

Funny indeed!

[-] 1 points by nucleus (3291) 2 years ago

I'm not laughing ...

[-] 0 points by TIOUAISE (2526) 2 years ago

Neither am I!

[+] -5 points by GirlFriday (21784) 2 years ago

He sure did. James Madison, Parties

23 Jan. 1792Papers 14:197--98 In every political society, parties are unavoidable. A difference of interests, real or supposed, is the most natural and fruitful source of them. The great object should be to combat the evil: 1. By establishing a political equality among all. 2. By withholding unnecessary opportunities from a few, to increase the inequality of property, by an immoderate, and especially an unmerited, accumulation of riches. 3. By the silent operation of laws, which, without violating the rights of property, reduce extreme wealth towards a state of mediocrity, and raise extreme indigence towards a state of comfort. 4. By abstaining from measures which operate differently on different interests, and particularly such as favor one interest at the expence of another. 5. By making one party a check on the other, so far as the existence of parties cannot be prevented, nor their views accommodated. If this is not the language of reason, it is that of republicanism.

In all political societies, different interests and parties arise out of the nature of things, and the great art of politicians lies in making them checks and balances to each other. Let us then increase these natural distinctions by favoring an inequality of property; and let us add to them artificial distinctions, by establishing kings, and nobles, and plebeians. We shall then have the more checks to oppose to each other: we shall then have the more scales and the more weights to perfect and maintain the equilibrium. This is as little the voice of reason, as it is that of republicanism.

From the expediency, in politics, of making natural parties, mutual checks on each other, to infer the propriety of creating artificial parties, in order to form them into mutual checks, is not less absurd than it would be in ethics, to say, that new vices ought to be promoted, where they would counteract each other, because this use may be made of existing vices. http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch15s50.html

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 2 years ago

A beautiful quote from 1792. Apparently Madison had some time (~4 years) with the new Constitutional Republic to come to the conclusion that political parties were indeed evil, and to offer his five prophylactic methods. Unfortunately, only the first method of his five appears to have a Constitutional basis.

[+] -6 points by GirlFriday (21784) 2 years ago

No, not really. Consider the following:

By a faction I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or 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.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controling its effects.

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it is worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction, what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be a less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

The second expedient is as impracticable, as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of Government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results: and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them every where 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 cooperate 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. But the most common and durable source of factions, has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold, and those who are without property, have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a monied interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern Legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of Government.

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? Is a law proposed concerning private debts? It is a question to which the creditors are parties on one side, and the debtors on the other. Justice ought to hold the balance between them. Yet the parties are and must be themselves the judges; and the most numerous party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction must be expected to prevail. Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufacturers? are questions which would be differently decided by the landed and the manufacturing classes; and probably by neither, with a sole regard to justice and the public good. The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property, is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet, there is perhaps no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party, to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they over-burden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets.

It is in vain to say, that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm: Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all, without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another, or the good of the whole.

The inference to which we are brought, is, that the causes of faction cannot be removed; and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controling its effects.

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote: It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government on the other hand enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest, both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good, and private rights, against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our enquiries are directed: Let me add that it is the great desideratum, by which alone this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has so long labored, and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.

By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time, must be prevented; or the majority, having such co-existent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together; that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful.

From this view of the subject, it may be concluded, that a pure Democracy, by which I mean, a Society, consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the Government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert results from the form of Government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party, or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is, that such Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicans, who have patronized this species of Government, have erroneously supposed, that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

A Republic, by which I mean a Government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure Democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure, and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.

The Founders' Constitution Volume 1, Chapter 4, Document 19 http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch4s19.html The University of Chicago Press

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 2 years ago

We are now quoting from the same Federalist Paper! It is a good read.

[+] -6 points by GirlFriday (21784) 2 years ago

Yes, but it doesn't explain how you came with the following: In the above, Madison clearly did not anticipate national parties, nor a two-party system of government, much less having the two parties both controlled by the same interest or faction.

or this: Madison, in this Paper, also equates faction with party,

When he clearly states the following: By a faction I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or 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.

Nor does it jibe with your first statement that I listed above.

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 2 years ago

Madison equates parties with factions for us in the second paragraph I quoted in my Post. He does this by initially talking about the dangers of factions, and then argues that the Union in the form of a republic can accommodate many parties that will be able to oppose troublesome factions in the form of a majority party.

My other statements are based on this same expectation of Madison's: a Union of diverse interests will result in many different factions or parties, all contending in the Government and keeping each other in check. Since Madison is long gone, we can only gather and surmise from his written legacy notions about what he was thinking. Would you be willing to support a different thesis from his works?

[+] -6 points by GirlFriday (21784) 2 years ago

Unless, you meant the one that you just gave me and I'm sorry this is not what I find in Madison.

[+] -6 points by GirlFriday (21784) 2 years ago

Depends. Cannot say until I see it. I'm willing to mull it over.

It isn't very often that I encounter anyone who is willing to discuss Madison.

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 2 years ago

I am not a historian, nor a political scientist, but I would be happy to discuss Madison with you, as well as discuss what we can do to reverse the deterioration of our republic, a republic that Madison so carefully crafted and defended.

[+] -6 points by ZenDog (20543) from South Burlington, VT 2 years ago

Nor did they anticipate the growth of the marketing industry, and principles of psychology applied to engineer consent for just about anything.