Monday, November 8, 2010

Ramblings Tangentially Related to Federalist 62

In an earlier post on voting rights in this nation, I pointed out that every citizen should read John Locke's Second Treatise of Government, Publius' Federalist, or de Tocqueville's Democracy in America at some point in time. I reread these books (something I otherwise rarely do) because they contain essential nuggets of truth concerning effective politics and justice. A great (and certainly under read) example is Federalist 62, written by James Madison.

The entire essay should be read, but I want to make sure you read the last four paragraphs:

The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessing of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?

Another effect of public instability is the unreasonable advantage it gives to the sagacious, the enterprising, and the moneyed few over the industrious and uniformed mass of the people. Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue, or in any way affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change, and can trace its consequences; a harvest, reared not by themselves, but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow-citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the few, not for the many.

In another point of view, great injury results from an unstable government. The want of confidence in the public councils damps every useful undertaking, the success and profit of which may depend on a continuance of existing arrangements. What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not but that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed? What farmer or manufacturer will lay himself out for the encouragement given to any particular cultivation or establishment, when he can have no assurance that his preparatory labors and advances will not render him a victim to an inconstant government? In a word, no great improvement or laudable enterprise can go forward which requires the auspices of a steady system of national policy.

But the most deplorable effect of all is that diminution of attachment and reverence which steals into the hearts of the people, towards a political system which betrays so many marks of infirmity, and disappoints so many of their flattering hopes. No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable, without possessing a certain portion of order and stability.

Wise words, indeed. The government that governs least, governs best. Another notable idea earlier in that essay is that the Senate had a check on the expansion of the Federal government when Senators were beholden to the state governments rather than the populace. I think that argument is accurate and that the 17th Amendment may have been a terrible mistake. The people are easily bribed, but the state governments would be loathe to give up their own power to the central government. That argument has been made by others and I believe they are right.

At the very least, something needs to be done to check this ever growing Federal government. ObamaCare and the Stimulus definitely fall into the "laws so voluminous that they cannot be read" category. I am yet to find the person who has read and understood this. Considering how many taxes and fines and requirements are in that law, it should be no wonder businesses are hesitant to hire anyone. After all, as Madison said, "What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not but that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed?"

The self confident ignorant, those that demand the right to decide how others should live but never study up on the complexity of politics, economics, and philosophy, that never put their own ideas out to be examined for weaknesses; these individuals will always anger me far more than those who stay home on Election Day.

Plato was disgusted by democracy for many of the same reasons. Considering Plato's influence on all of Western thought, you should know that. Never forget that it was a democracy that put Socrates to death.

Ignorance in rulers infuriates me. Democracy is the rule of the (voting) people; ergo, ignorant voters infuriate me in a democracy. If you wish to be ignorant and never make a decision for others, by all means do so, and I wish you much happiness. But if you are going to make decisions concerning my liberties, my natural rights, you need to be busting your ass making sure you are making the right decisions.

History, political theory, economics, philosophy...dig in. And don't stop. Or don't vote. I don't really care which, just so long as it is one or the other.

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