Saturday, August 08, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Washington

When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. - Thomas Jefferson

Liberals live in perpetual fear that they will be subject to the same threats, hostility, and scorn to which they subject others. Debate is a sign of a healthy political system. But for liberals, the time for talk is over once they're in power.

People generally want two things: they want people to care as much as they do, and they want people to have the same opinions they do. This is where hypocrisy generally comes into play. People should be subject to the same rules to which they want to subject others.

It's a funny thing about law: it really only applies to those who want to be different. As far as health care goes, Democrats need laws to force people into their system because they know it can't be supported by those who would freely choose it. This is why government cannot morally be a service provider or distributor.

Federalism was designed in order to discourage violence associated with public debate, because the federal government was restrained from forcing all Americans to support one idea. As James Madison said,

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.

Federalist number 10 is my favorite, because Madison lays out how the Senate as originally designed would work to contain the uncivil discourse that threatened to tear democracies apart. It is federalism that was America's safeguard against the danger of mob rule that threatens democracies, and it is the 17th Amendment which made America into the democracy that the Constitution restrained us from being. As things continue to heat up, we should take this opportunity to remind people of the remedy for the movement toward an uncivil war.

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