(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab.)
Image: Your Little Planet
Today, we see with the populist movement across our country in cross currents both right and left factions seeking to take control of the major parties. In one case, the GOP populists were successful in taking control of the Republican Party in 2016.
James Madison saw the issue of how to deal with factions who may override the needs of the people for the public good. In Federalist Paper No. 10, Madison said;
“By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
Certainly, his observation of what happens when factions move against the common good is true today, as we see the oligarchy faction taking control of the populists by making huge donations to our representatives in Congress. Madison saw that taking away the liberty of the faction was like taking away the air we breathe and keeps people engaged in their government. Plus, he saw issues in making laws to constantly set limits which would change around the effects of the factious movement. So, what might the answer be?
He knew that he was dealing with the inherent nature of man:
“The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man, and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity…” Thus this factious, tribal nature of man unfortunately is coming forth with ever increasing strength and lack of civility.
We see partisanship growing to new heights of conflict. Our Congress has very few Senators willing to cross party lines as this chart illustrates so well:
Chart: Reddit.com – 113th Congress – 5/11/14
Only two senators Sen. Susan Collins – R – Maine, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski – R – Alaska seem to be the only ones willing to cross the isle. Sen. John McCain – R – AZ cast the deciding no vote last summer on repealing the Affordable Care Act. How can this total lack of vision in the public interest be? An act of Congress effecting every American and we cannot create a common vision of what the future of health services for all? Creating that common vision, building consensus and moving the country ahead together is the responsibility of our elected leaders – clearly they are not doing their job.
The common good is certainly missing. Madison thought a pure democracy of citizens voting in a public forum to decide major matters would not work in a large geographically dispersed area and that a faction could easily overtake the democratic vote. He advocated as structured in the Constitution a republic of representatives of the people who could see the damage possibly done to the republic by the faction. Sen. Mc Cain invoked the need to strengthen the common good when he said his no vote was due to lack of ‘common order’ and process in the creation and rushed partisan vote taken without hearings from experts, citizens and consideration of amendments. In McCain’s no vote on ACA repeal, Madison’s vision worked, of ‘a body of citizens, whose wisdom may discern the best interest of the country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partisan considerations.’ However, in so many other pressing issues for our country the elected leaders financially bound to their donor’s will are not solving urgent issues confronting the citizens and their public interest.
Where do we go from here to build the common good aligned to the public interest? We will look at various proposals to build the common good in this series of posts beginning next Friday.