Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, June 24, 2004

What The Founding Fathers Really Said (Reposting)

Hi Everyone,

Al Gore is on the speaking circuit claiming that the current administration is a "clear and present danger" to "the American experiment" (i.e. democracy). He argues that the founding fathers would be very concerned about what the Bush administration is claiming as powers inherent in the Commander-in-Chief. So I'm reposting a series of quotations from the Federalist Papers to see if Al Gore is on to something or just being partisan.

There is an enormous amount rhetoric out there - especially from conservatives - along the lines of "the Founding Fathers never intended blah blah blah." However, it is my experience when talking to conservatives who like to make these arguments that very few of them have actually read anything written by the "Founding Fathers" or the Constitution itself for that matter. Which is really strange because these guys were really prolific authors. I've been reading The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay a lot lately in relation to my own research on political institutions and here are some of my favorite quotations.

"For it is a truth which the experience of all ages has attested, that the people are always most in danger, when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion." - Federalist 25 (Hamilton)

I think the quotation above speaks to the "trust Bush, he has moral clarity" justification for greater executive power we hear from conservatives.

"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 centinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of supreme powers of the state." - Federalist 51 (Madison)

This quotation by Madison is my favorite of all time. Consider what Madison would think about the enormous concentration of executive power (and executive police power at that) in a single agency in the form of the Homeland Security Agency.

"Its is of great importance in a republic, not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers; but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of providing against this evil: The one by creating a will in the community independent of the majority, that is, of the society itself; the other by 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. The first method prevails in all governments possessing an hereditary or self appointed authority. This at best is but a precarious security; because a power independent of the society may as well espouse the unjust views of the major, as the rightful interests, of the minority party, and may possibly be turned against both parties. The second method will be exemplified in the federal republic of the United States. Whilst all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority." - Federalist 51 (Madison)

OK, that was a long one. But it speaks to my earlier posting (which generated so much controversy) arguing that economic diversity was a necessary condition for democracy. It also speaks to the demands by religious conservatives that all government policy reflect "traditional American values" (read conservative Evangelical values).

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