Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Federalist No. 10" by Publius (James Madison)

Source: American Phonic (mp3)
Length: 19 min
Reader: Michael Scherer

The essay: Although the colonies declared their independence in 1776, the United States as a nation was not born until much later. In 1787, a new Constitution was proposed to take the place of the weak Articles of Confederation.  Under the new constitution, a Federal Republic would have powers that pertained to the welfare of the Union as a whole, while states would retain some of their previous powers.

Some, however, felt that this new system of government would make the nation less democratic by reserving powers in a more distant federal government rather than the more local state governments. In response to these Anti-Federalists, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote what became known as the Federalist Papers, a series of editorials arguing the merits of the new Constitution.

In this essay, "Federalist Number 10", Madison attempts to refute the idea that in the new government special interests ("factions") will gain the upper hand and impose their will against the good of particular states. His key argument is that in national government, the size of the faction would have to be so much larger to influence a larger government, so you would be less likely to be hurt by a minor faction. This argument held up in 1787, but in modern America, we have political parties who choose their candidates through primaries that can be influenced by small number of people, such as in the Iowa corn growers in Presidential primaries. Thus, Madison's ideal of a government beyond the reach of factions has become a government full of special interests.

Rating: 7 / 10

The reader: Scherer has a deep, stentorian voice that fits well with the formal Enlightenment style of the original. His reading is clear and straightforward; not an easy thing to do with the tongue-tying maze of subordinate clauses in this essay.  The sound quality is excellent. The other portions of the Federalist Papers are available at the link above, including the equally famous Federalist No. 51.

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