James Madison, Federalist No.10 (excerpts):

“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, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

“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 controlling its EFFECTS.”

“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 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 in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters.”

“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.”

I can’t help but wonder why Madison didn’t consider political parties to be a manifestation of the very thing-factions-that he was warning against.  Perhaps he did, but didn’t foresee a polarization and crystallization of only two parties that would come to dominate our political arena. If the parties are inherent in politics, how can we reliable and realistically control for the effects of them with so limited options?

Also, to use his example, as a religious group has become a strong and substantial part of the constituency of one party (which transcends state borders to the national level), one must also wonder if we’re as insulated against dangers from any such group (or other lobbyists) at all.  In the constant-campaign season and ever-present need to raise money, it’s no wonder that lobbyists (i.e. factions with particular agendas which can be at odds with groups of citizens or the country at large) are very powerful indeed.

Further, as the citizenry is almost always displeased with Congress (and the Executive), especially in the light of constant scandals, perhaps it’s time for a change to the system?

The latest SEC suit (vs. Goldman Sacs) highlights the lack of power Congress has over blatantly wrong yet powerful entities (Wall Street), and the lack of respect with which the latter treats the former.  More later on my semi-sound ideas about how to perhaps improve the system through reform.

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