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The Federalist Papers: Cohesion Out of Anarchy - Assignment Example

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The author of the paper states that among the many issues raised by the federalist papers, one of the primary concerns continually brought up and debated was the need to balance the needs for democracy against the risk of the tyranny of the majority. …
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The Federalist Papers: Cohesion Out of Anarchy
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The Federalist Paper No. 51 argues, “In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves; so, in the former state”. Madison is expressing in this last paragraph the dilemma between majority and minority protection. Too much majority protection and the society is like anarchy: The strong form coalitions and rule by force, using the state as a narrowly-concealed bludgeon. But with too much protection for the weak, it is inevitable that “hereditary or self-appointed authority” take over, and a “will... independent of society itself” characterized by a social elite will dominate, which is even worse than the majority tyranny leading to the odious state of anarchy.

Madison then argues that Rhode Island, without reform in the manner prescribed by the Federalist Papers and the eventual Constitution, is an example of this risk of majority tyranny. “[I]f the State of Rhode Island was separated from the Confederacy and left to itself, the insecurity of rights under the popular form of government within such narrow limits would be displayed by such reiterated oppressions of factious majorities that some power altogether independent of the people would soon be called for by the voice of the very factions whose misrule had proved the necessity of it”. Thus, Madison is proposing that Rhode Islands governmental form be used as an example to stray away from, lest the Constitution leads to the same risk of anarchy or majority tyranny.

The “will independent of society”, of course, is the risk of going too far away from the pole of majority power, represented by Rhode Island, and towards a regime more like an authoritarian or monarchic one. The whole objective of the Federalist Papers was to craft another solution, a different way of going between the horns of the dilemma: “[B]y comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable”. Mechanisms like encouraging coalitions, practicing the balance of power, having the division of power between state, local and federal governments, and so on create an institutional means were forming a majority so powerful to tyrannize is difficult. For example, A super-majority vote to end a filibuster or override the President means that, for a policy to be passed, it has to have broad public support: A temporary majority or coalition will not suffice.

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence seems to simply be a statement of Enlightenment beliefs about the rights of men and the need to create new governments and dissolve malfunctioning social contracts. But it in fact sheds some light on the idea: There are similarities and differences between Jefferson's language and philosophy, and Madisons.

Jefferson was on the balance more radical than Madison and promoted greater options for the majority. The fear among the Founders, as Madison himself expressed, was that too much majority power could lead to mob rule, but if the government was too conservative, existing elites such as Madison and Jefferson themselves would end up ruling instead of the people, and this would be just as tyrannical. Jefferson erred closer to the side of majority rule to stem this problem off.

But the Declaration of Independence also makes clear that “Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes”.  Read More
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