HGov: Federalist No. 10


Federalist 10In Federalist 10, Madison turned classical republican arguments upside down. He began with a central premise that factions posed the greatest danger to governments of the people. By faction, Madison meant any group, majority or minority, within a society that promoted its own self-interest at the expense of the common good. He did not define the common good or explain who decided what the common good was.

If a faction consisted of a minority, a democracy worked well because the majority could outvote the faction. But if the faction consisted of a majority, then the risk of majority tyranny arose. Democracy would fail the common good. A republic, in which citizens elected representatives to tend to the people’s business, might work better. However, in a small homogeneous republic, the type of society that classical republicanism prescribed, majority tyranny also could arise. Because people were relatively similar in occupations, habits, and manners, there would probably be no more than two sets of ideas on any question. If those opposed to the common good commanded a majority and the representatives simply reflected their constituents’ views, then the outcome would still defeat the common good and the people’s rights.

Madison next explained the benefits of a large diverse republic. Such a nation was likely to have so many different factions that none would be able to command a majority. Moreover, in a large nation there were likely to be more fit characters for leadership, in other words, more eminent citizens able to see the common good. Unlike Anti-Federalists who argued that good representatives reflected constituents’ views and characteristics, Madison and many other Federalists argued that good representatives enlarged or refined the public’s view by filtering out ideas that were based solely on self-interest. A large diverse republic would therefore defeat the dangers of faction. No single faction would emerge supreme and elected representatives would be most likely to see beyond the narrow views of ordinary citizens.

Madison wrote Federalist 10 at a time when people in geographically distant states were unlikely to know one another or one another’s passions and interests. Today modern technologies enable people in distant regions to know and communicate with one another. Have modern communication technologies contributed to a country that is at least as factional as in 1787?


Homework:
1) Read Chapter 6 pp.196-205

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