James Madison and Federalist #51


Within the last week or so, I have had interactions with friends of mine of the liberal persuasion. I have asked of them these “what if” questions”

  • What if a government official came to your house and told you that he was talking your car because it was newer than the ones that any of your neighbors had?
  • What if a government official came into your house unannounced and turned your thermostat up to 82 degrees when it was 100 outside and told you that you were using more electricity than the poor guy on the other side of town that only had a window fan and then put a padlock on your thermostat so you couldn’t change it?
  • What if you went to Kroger and there was a government official at each checkout who had your last year’s tax return and added 20% to your grocery bill because in the eyes, the income inequality in your neighborhood was too great?
  • What if in the mail tomorrow, you received the bill of a person who shopped at Whole Foods or any other high end grocery store and the government demanded that you pay it because it wasn’t fair that that person could not shop at that store for free range chicken, 100% certified grass fed beef, organically grown green beans and arugula for his salad?
  • What if the government told you that your son or daughter could never date anyone but a person who was a member of a specific minority…but the minority person always had the right to reject your child but you had to pay for every date the minority person had with anyone forever into the future?

Guess what?

I got a universally negative reaction to each one of them.

No way would they agree to any government doing this…this is America!

Then to compound their confusion, I then said that they had just objected to Obama’s:

  • Economic policy
  • Energy policy
  • Tax policy
  • Obamacare
  • Social Policy

I started thinking about James Madison and Federalist #51:

But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other — that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the State.

It occurs to me that contemporary liberals are incapable of governing themselves and therefore cannot understand the need for government to be controlled. As someone on this site once said, they want the government to handle the “mundane things” – but there are no “mundane” things. People who crave power over others are more than happy to use “mundane things” as a lever to expand into other areas that are not so mundane. That’s how a government goes from providing public utilities to telling you how much water you can use to flush your toilet and what kind of light bulb you can buy.

Gun “control” is another example. The anti-gun left can’t see why they would ever need a gun in the blameless, excuse ridden, “nobody is really bad”, Utopia that they have created, so automatically, nobody should ever have a gun.

Liberals assume that because they can’t resist these impulses that everybody else has the same issues and therefore government must be used to control everybody…once again proving that they have no concept of what the Founders put in place. Madison clearly explains in Federalist 51 that it is the people who must constrain government.

Madison and his contemporaries had experienced what it was like when a government refused the will of its people, they couldn’t conceive that people would want more of it.

2 thoughts on “James Madison and Federalist #51

  1. “A businessman may not be able to force you to buy his product”, but he can get the govt to force you to do so. (if he donates to the right party)

  2. Madison and his contemporaries would probably roll over in their graves to find out that half the people are supporting the other half. The problem this time around is that the other half is now being prodded to vote. I fear this country is festering like a disgusting pimple and about to come to a head.

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