Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Modern Jacksonian - Chapter 9 - The Distance That Destroys

What is democracy?

This, in America, should seem obvious: democracy has two main forms of representative democracy and direct democracy.

Direct democracy is the direct ballot or vote or other assessment given by all individuals that meet those necessary qualifications to meet such input needs. This is true in representative democracy for the casting of the ballot, but only for direct measures does that devolve into direct democracy. Direct democracy is the direct casting of such ballots or votes for measures to help govern society and no one is appointed to do that save by those actually casting the votes.

This, in modern terms, has been seen as 'one man, one vote', save that all questions of governing reach no higher authority than that vote: there may be appointed officials to carry out such things voted on, but the vote, itself, is the authorization and legitimacy of those things voted upon. These are usually systems of 'majority rule', or 50%+1 rule, or 'super majority rule' or those votes requiring a more than 50%+1 legitimacy either by 66% (two-thirds), 75% (three-quarters) or 100% (unanimity). Some States in the US use this for direct ballot measures, but in a direct democracy each and every measure would need to meet the majority rule of all of those voting: society.

America, however, does not do this at the Federal scale and not only has representative democracy but of republican form: it has a head of state. This concept need not, of necessity, mean a legislative body, but can be an actual individual. That said republics can also consist of a Consul as individual (such as the Roman Republic having two Consuls that exchanged office) or a Council as group performing that role (such as Switzerland with its ruling committee). This form of government then separates the Head of State function from the Head of Government function either via different individuals (ex. a President and a Prime Minister) or a division of functions by Executive and Legislative concepts.

The US Constitution by ensuring that all States have a form of republican government ensures that there is no State that invests all of its powers into one individual. With that being said, the Constitution does not speak on any actual form of republic so that the States may choose, for themselves, how to constitute their governments and ensure that some form of republicanism is put into place.

To run this system with the additional division of Judicial to be a check and balance on the Executive and Legislative branches, and by dividing up the Legislative into two bodies so that no single body may sign away the rights of both, the US system of Constitutional republic is most complex. The final complexity added is that of representative democracy.

Representative democracy is that form where individuals vote for a single individual to represent that constituency. In this there are also many forms available to not only determine who gets to represent a given constituency but what the level of satisfaction must be to meet that.

The US for the House of Representative districts uses one form of this: districts of roughly equal population, save in low population States where only one Representative is given for that State (the district is the State). The most number of representatives that the US can have is at the lowest representative proportion set in the main body of the Constitution: 1:30,000. Congress, however, is allowed to adjust this so that it may decide the level of representation (and that could go down to a minimum of 1 per State by current reading of the Constitution as there is no requirement for multiple Representatives, only that a minimum number be given which is 1 per State).

A district restricts candidates by geography, and then allows for a system of majority election in that district to determine who represents the district in a 'first past the post' schema. That schema means that so long as majority is won in the district, there is only one representative from it. That is the logic of by district, first past the post elections: majority rules via limited geography to elect a representative.

There are, however, other systems that are perfectly allowable and, indeed, were run by the States early in the republic of the United States. With a given number of House Seats available many States ran an 'at large' system of votes, where the top number of vote getters across the State would take those seats. If one had 4 seats then the top 4 were chosen without respect to geographical origin within the State. This form of system allowed multiple parties to work hard to be 'competitive' within the State so as to garner one of the top positions. If Congress were given to run at 1:30,000, then the necessary 'barrier to entry' becomes that of 30,000 votes with no other qualifier necessary. Thus at the extreme other end of a 50 seat House is that of a nearly 10,000 seat House, and these two disparate forms of representative democracy are perfectly amenable to the US Constitution as it only sets minimums and maximums, and does not dictate: number of parties, types of proportionality or even the presence of absence of districts.

There are other, and more diverse systems that have been devised, such as the 'second choice ballot' system where, if the number of final representatives is not met, then the lowest is taken out and the second choice marked on the ballot is then implemented. Elimination is usually of a given percentage of the lowest candidates in order to meet some minimal representative number (50%+1 or set number by proportion, or both). There is also the system where if none meet the necessary qualifier for first past the post, then the top two vote getters have a second or 'run-off' election between them so that a single winner can be found. The US actually has a form of this system embodied in the Electoral College for Presidential Elections, in which representative electors are what is actually chosen via ballot and the Electoral College convenes to cast its votes. Not all States have a requirement that such Electors actually cast their vote as given by the election, however, so that higher level political deals can be made for election of a President. If the College cannot agree then the House of Representatives is given final vote and say for President.

The concept embodied by representative democracy (be it in the House or the two seats per State Senate or the Electoral College) is that of 'knowing who you are voting for'. The basis of representative democracy is that an individual represents all of those either in a district, in those systems, or those that actually voted for them, as in those systems of meeting proportionality or the highest number of vote getters. Thus the weight of decision making is either to make the best decision for a diverse district, in which one did not get unanimity, or along ideological/party lines as in a proportional system, or an admixture of both in a 'top number chosen' system. Actually having an idea of who it is you are voting for to represent you becomes the key part of each of these systems, so that an individual may wisely cast their votes for their chosen representative (win or lose).

When there is distance put between the voter and their representative, so that less and less is known about that representative, the system begins to break down. This is not a new worry in democracies and has been a problem of democracy since the concept was invented in its representative form. The ongoing discourse during the years 1787-89 between multiple individuals would bring out how such democratic systems erode and implode to ones of tyrannical rule, authoritarian rule or outright despotism. The Swiss system was held as one key in that debate by many, and all recognized it as a republic and form of representative democracy that was proving to be relatively stable. From Maryland Farmer, Essay No.3, Part 1, 07 MAR 1788:
That a national government will prevent the influence or danger of foreign intrigue, or secure us from invasion, is in my judgment directly the reverse of the truth. The only foreign, or at least evil foreign influence, must be obtained through corruption. Where the government is lodged in the body of the people, as in Switzerland, they can never be corrupted; for no prince, or people, can have resources enough to corrupt the majority of a nation; and if they could, the play is not worth the candle. The facility of corruption is increased in proportion as power tends by representation or delegation, to a concentration in the hands of a few.…

Here the Maryland Farmer identifies the salient points of limited representational democracy are seen: keeping government close to the voters and ensuring that the distance between voters and their representatives does not get too large.

Notice that this is from an 'Anti-Federalist' but is *not* an argument against federal forms of government (that is shared and distributed power between local, State and National government, with checks and balances between governments and inside them) but an argument that localized democracy is necessary to keep corruption low and foreign influence out. When power is concentrated into too few hands, dangers arise.

Indeed, a federal form of government was argued *for* by many of the 'Anti-Federalists', which belies what they saw and talked about as not *being* 'Anti-Federalist' but something else, entirely. To be sure many did argue against the federal as opposed to the then confederal form of government, but the hallmarks of what we come to call 'federalism' were well understood and supported. This was seen by Federal Farmer, No. 17, 23 JAN 1788:

I have often heard it observed, that our people are well informed, and will not submit to oppressive governments; that the state governments will be their ready advocates, and possess their confidence, mix with them, and enter into all their wants and feelings. This is all true; but of what avail will these circumstances be, if the state governments, thus allowed to be the guardians of the people, possess no kind of power by the forms of the social compact, to stop, in their passage, the laws of congress injurious to the people. State governments must stand and see the law take place; they may complain and petition — so may individuals; the members of them, in extreme cases, may resist, on the principles of self-defence — so may the people and individuals.

It has been observed, that the people, in extensive territories, have more power, compared with that of their rulers, than in small states. Is not directly the opposite true? The people in a small state can unite and act in concert, and with vigour; but in large territories, the men who govern find it more easy to unite, while people cannot; while they cannot collect the opinions of each part, while they move to different points, and one part is often played off against the other.

It has been asserted, that the confederate head of a republic at best, is in general weak and dependent; — that the people will attach themselves to, and support their local governments, in all disputes with the union. Admit the fact: is it any way to remove the inconvenience by accumulating powers upon a weak organization? The fact is, that the detail administration of affairs, in this mixed republic, depends principally on the local governments; and the people would be wretched without them: and a great proportion of social happiness depends on the internal administration of justice, and on internal police. The splendor of the monarch, and the power of the government are one thing. The happiness of the subject depends on very different causes: but it is to the latter, that the best men, the greatest ornaments of human nature, have most carefully attended: it is to the former tyrants and oppressors have always aimed.

Not only was a strong federal government protested against, but the reasoning was that a distant federal government would find it easier to unite rulers than to unite disparate States across the Nation. Those that would govern would find more in common amongst themselves, being governors, than the people would amongst themselves, being diverse and in many different communities. With that power, handed to the National level, those in such government would then seek to secure their power by playing off faction against factions, piece upon piece, until there was no coherent unity amongst the States and only the National government was left.

While the final form of such things cannot be predicted, the movement to faction based politics is one that is of extreme danger for large republics with poor representation systems. The ability of government to use pre-existing differences to turn them into political divisions is one that is a siren's song of political parties - it is a path to government but also a path to instability. Governing for the good of all the people in a democratic republic run via representational means does not become an end in such situations and is, instead, replaced by catering to one faction over another via gifts from government taken from all of the people. When this is combined with the shift of politics to those factions and away from commonality by those in power over years or decades, governing for the good of the Nation, itself, disappears.

We see this, today, in this thing known as: Identity Politics. While such political divisions created by the parties in the US to exploit such differences was always a worry, the entrenchment of it by those in government to ensure that such divisions become defining for government becomes a detriment not just to the Nation but a corrosive effect on its corrective, which is democratic will. Disenfranchisement need not be by disbarment from voting or by intimidation, and can be just as easily done by entrenching preferred groups above the entirety of the population for special favor and attention and then shunting aside criticism and petition.

The first order corrective, however, before that of the people, is the States, as given by Federal Farmer. By making the States an integral part of the checks and balance system, the National government was held accountable not only by the people, who may become dissuaded from voting and keeping the interest of the Nation foremost, but also by the States that would ensure that their interest as autonomous actors within the Union were not infringed upon.

The main body of the US Constitution did try to address some of the concerns given, as: Article I, Section 2 addressing Taxation (and the additional injunction in Section 9 against any direct tax whatsoever) to be handed to the States to collect, the Article I, Section 3 ability of a State Legislature to choose Senators, and the Article I, Section 10 escape clause to allow States the ability to defend themselves separate from the Union when invaded or in imminent Danger as will not admit delay. These each served as a check and balance against the power of National government to raise taxes, to withdraw Senators to demonstrate the State's non-acceptance of legitimacy and the ability of the States to actually continue on the ancient right of self-defense and have that available to it, separate from the National government.

Two of these has been removed by Amendments that have bestowed direct powers to the National government and removed the recourse of the States to keep it in check. Amendment XVI specifically removed the direct taxation of citizens and corporations and handed that to the National government without the need nor intervention of the States. Amendment XVII shifted the Senatorial selection out of the Statehouse and into direct elections, thus negating that check and balance on the legitimacy of the National government. Only the Art. I, Section 10 right of self-defense backed by the militia language in Amendment II has remained in place, but that, too, has been eroded by the ability of the States to have non-standing forces available in case of ready need by those pressing for the centralization of all forces to the federal government. The vestment of the power of the Union's forces has been shifted to the National via legislation so that modern readers of Art. I, Sec. 10 and Amend. II are left to scratch their heads as to the meaning of them. It not only is the incorporation of the individual's right to self-defense, but of the State to organize separate, non-standing forces for ultimate self-protection. That latter cannot be garnered without the former, and the citizenry, without the right to organize via their States, find difficulty in understanding just how the Nation viewed arms and their use from that era. Many, today, believe that the States have *no* right to separate protection on their own, and castigate any attempts to do so. That is centralized socialization pressure backed by government to erode the States of the right to their own autonomy in those cases where the federal government either cannot or will not respond. That is a federalist view of military power, the division of it between the Nation and the States, and is something supported by both federalists and 'Anti-Federalists'.

Indeed, many of the 'Anti-Federalists', were quite trenchant in their output, making a few of today's bloggers with their worst innuendos seem tame by comparison. And yet that era was one in which the future outlook not only of the Nation but of democracy itself was at the deciding point. The power being handed to this federal government in a representative democracy under republican format was quite large, and the worries coming out of the Revolution and seeing the problems of past republics was foremost in the minds of many. Thus the warnings, such as those by Luther Martin's Address No. 4, on 04 APR 1788, may seem a bit harsh in the addressing of those like Hamilton and Madison, yet the point made is clear and well spoken even when we must consider those that we disagree with:

Those who would wish to excite and keep awake your jealousy and distrust, are your truest friends;—while they, who speak peace to you when there is no peace—who would lull you into security, and wish you to repose blind confidence in your future governors, are your most dangerous enemies. Jealousy and distrust are the guardian angels who watch over liberty:—security and confidence are the forerunners of slavery.

But the advocates for the system tell you that we who oppose it, endeavour to terrify you with mere possibilities, which may never be realized, that all our objections consist in saying government may do this,—and government may do that.

I will, for argument sake, admit the justice of this remark, and yet maintain that the objections are insurmountable.—I consider it an in-controvertible truth, that whatever by the constitution government even may do, if it relates to the abuse of power, by acts tyrannical and oppressive, it some time or other will do.—Such is the ambition of man, and his lust for domination, that no power less than that which fixed its bounds to the ocean, can say, to them, "thus far shall ye go and no farther."—Ascertain the limits of the may, with ever so much precision, and let them be as extensive as you please, government will speedily reach their utmost verge; nor will it stop there, but soon will overleap those boundaries, and roam at large into the regions of the may not.—Those who tell you the government by this constitution may keep up a standing army,—abolish the trial by jury,—oppress the citizens of the states by its powers over the militia,—destroy the freedom of the press,—infringe the liberty of conscience, and do a number of other acts injurious to and destructive of your rights, yet that it never will do so; and that you safely may accept such a constitution, and be perfectly at ease and secure that your rulers will always be so good, so wise, and so virtuous—such emanations of the Deity, that they will never use their power but for your interest and your happiness—contradict the uniform experience of ages, and betray a total ignorance of human nature, or a total want of ingenuity.
Actually, pretty vicious stuff about those 'who would lull you into security' given the era. The point that wariness of those offering platitudes and easy assurances is one that has lived on since that era to the present, and we still find ourselves confronted with politicians preferring to speak of great, vague things that they will not put down firmly so as to tell those voting for them what they actually wish to achieve.

One of the most divisive parts of society is religion, and was a worry to that era as the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 had only been in place for 130 years or so, and had often been obeyed in its breach: not only was the open practice of some sects forbidden, but in a few areas, such as Spain, persecution and inquisition were still in place. In England social isolation of Puritans and others would lead to the diminution of mobility in society and government, while allowing same in commerce. By restricting religion by government and politics, social division, isolation and persecution would be manifest as a societal view. In Maryland Farmer, Essay VII, 04 APR 1788,we see the following:

Thus it is that barbarity—cruelty and blood which stain the history of religion, spring from the corruption of civil government, and from that never—dying hope and fondness for a state of equality, which constitutes an essential part of the soul of man:—A chaos of darkness obscures the downfal of empire, intermixed with gleams of light, which serve only to disclose scenes of desolation and horror—From the last confusion springs order:—The bold spirits who pull down the ancient fabric—erect a new one, founded on the natural liberties of mankind, and where civil government is preserved free, there can be no religious tyranny—the sparks of bigotry and enthusiasm may and will crackle, but can never light into a blaze.—


Religious tyranny continued in this state, during those convulsions which broke the aristocracies of Europe, and settled their governments into mixed monarchies: A ray of light then beamed—but only for a moment—the turbulent state and quick corruption of mixed monarchy, opened a new scene of religious horrorPardons for all crimes committed and to be committed, were regulated by ecclesiastical law, with a mercantile exactitude, and a Christian knew what he must pay for murdering another better than he now does the price of a pair of boots: At length some bold spirits began to doubt whether wheat flour, made into paste, could be actually human flesh, or whether the wine made in the last vintage could be the real blood of Christ, who had been crucified upwards of 1400 years—Such was the origin of the Protestant reformation—at the bare mention of such heretical and dangerous doctrine, striking (as they said) at the root of all religion, the sword of power leaped from its scabbard, the smoke that arose from the flames, to which the most virtuous of mankind, were without mercy committed, darkened all Europe for ages; tribunals, armed with frightful tortures, were every where erected, to make men confess opinions, and then they were solemnly burned for confessing, whilst priest and people sang hymns around them; and the fires of persecution are scarcely yet extinguished. Civil and religious liberty are inseparably interwoven—whilst government is pure and equal—religion will be uncontaminated:—The moment government becomes disordered, bigotry and fanaticism take root and grow—they are soon converted to serve the purpose of usurpation, and finally, religious persecution reciprocally supports and is supported by the tyranny of the temporal powers.

This applies not only to religion but any enforced differences imposed by government amongst the people for any reason whatsoever. When factions are empowered by government to enforce views and coerce others into holding them, or kill them because they confess to other views that are seen as heretical, then society is at peril of government. That is not only in the religious realm, but the secular of race, creed, political viewpoint, and any other thing used to divide the people against themselves. Only in an era of Political Correctness have we seen 'sensitivity training' enforced by mandate and have we seen tribunals in other democracies set up to withhold the power of freedom of speech that may be 'offensive' to some minority. At that point it is not the minority that is put at peril, but civil society and government *both*. Not just democracy, but any secular government that empowers such puts itself at peril of becoming the victim of bigotry and certitude as one faction is deemed to be in need of 'power' over others.

There is a stark difference between society recognizing the error of its ways in areas of discrimination and removing those obstacles and in setting up tribunals to make all individuals in society adhere to Politically Correct mandates handed down by those in power.

Government being restrained from punishing is one thing.

Government used to punish society so as to change it to other views is destructive to society and to those in power as they objectify their fellow citizens into those needing to be 'purified' to some unknown and untold standard.

That is not democracy by any scope of the imagination, and yet we have heard in this election year those willing to put race, gender and religion as litmus tests for high office and, indeed, the highest office in the land. Yet another of those things give to us as warning by the 'Anti-Federalists' who seem to have had some understanding of how democracy can fail and what the ends of government can be when it does so. It is not a pleasant thing to see the warnings of those who criticized the Constitution coming true, and yet if we blind ourselves to those facts coming before us, then we also blind ourselves to what these fellow citizens saw as solutions.

Unlike the modern era of criticism *only*, this was an era that understood that the duty of the citizen was not only to criticize, but to offer something better and hope to build something better. Thus, if in their trenchant tracts they demean and diminish, many also offered to help and to build something new and better: not just the Constitution as it was but to Amend, change or alter it to adhere to principles that were still in accord with democratic and republican ideals and yet put safeguards into it against those problems they saw.

Of these 'critics that do more than criticize' there was Federal Farmer No. 3, 10 OCT 1787, who would offer such criticism and then solutions:

I am fully convinced that we must organize the national government on different principles, and make the parts of it more efficient, and secure in it more effectually the different interests in the community; or else leave in the state governments some powers proposed to be lodged in it—at least till such an organization shall be found to be practicable. Not sanguine in my expectations of a good federal administration, and satisfied, as I am, of the impracticability of consolidating the states, and at the same time of preserving the rights of the people at large, I believe we ought still to leave some of those powers in the state governments, in which the people, in fact, will still be represented—to define some other powers proposed to be vested in the general government, more carefully, and to establish a few principles to secure a proper exercise of the powers given it. It is not my object to multiply objections, or to contend about inconsiderable powers or amendments. I wish the system adopted with a few alterations; but those, in my mind, are essential ones; if adopted without, every good citizen will acquiesce, though I shall consider the duration of our governments, and the liberties of this people, very much dependant on the administration of the general government. A wise and honest administration, may make the people happy under any government; but necessity only can justify even our leaving open avenues to the abuse of power, by wicked, unthinking, or ambitious men. I will examine, first, the organization of the proposed government, in order to judge; 2d. with propriety, what powers are improperly, at least prematurely lodged in it. I shall examine, 3d, the undefined powers; and 4th, those powers, the exercise of which is not secured on safe and proper ground.

A more straightforward view cannot be found today on how to work with one's fellow citizens to change and adjust government. First you state the problem, second you define what needs to be done and third you point out how these things will benefit everyone without exception. Then restate the entire thing in short form. Additionally the concept of 'change as little as possible' is also given, which others would see as a wise way to change government. Really, this is the modern technique of problem solving, along with the acknowledgement that this may not be perfect, but it is better than what is proposed, and what is proposed is good but not well thought out. A rarity today, in an era that should be more enlightened.

Let us see what the good Federal Farmer came up with in those things to be examined, and I will do some minor consolidation:

First. As to the organization—the house of representatives, the democrative branch, as it is called, is to consist of 65 members; that is, about one representative for fifty thousand inhabitants, to be chosen biennially—the federal legislature may increase this number to one for each thirty thousand inhabitants, abating fractional numbers in each state..—Thirty-three representatives will make a quorum for doing business, and a majority of those present determine the sense of the house.—I have no idea that the interests, feelings, and opinions of three or four millions of people, especially touching internal taxation, can be collected in such a house.—In the nature of things, nine times in ten, men of the elevated classes in the community only can be chosen

The first complaint is that 1:50,000 for the first proposed legislature is too small and that electors will tend to be drawn from the upper class and not from the middle or lower class. Additionally 1:50,000 is too small to properly represent the interests of 3-4 million people. Basically the House of Representatives is seen as too small, too far removed and drawing from a non-representative portion of the population. And his remedy is as follows just a bit further down:

The branches of the legislature are essential parts of the fundamental compact, and ought to be so fixed by the people, that the legislature cannot alter itself by modifying the elections of its own members. This, by a part of Art. 1. Sect. 4. the general legislature may do, it may evidently so regulate elections as to secure the choice of any particular description of men.—It may make the whole state one district—make the capital, or any places in the state, the place or places of election—it may declare that the five men (or whatever the number may be the state may chuse) who shall have the most votes shall be considered as chosen—In this case it is easy to perceive how the people who live scattered in the inland towns will bestow their votes on different men—and how a few men in a city, in any order or profession, may unite and place any five men they please highest among those that may be voted for—and all this may be done constitutionally, and by those silent operations, which are not immediately perceived by the people in general.—I know it is urged, that the general legislature will be disposed to regulate elections on fair and just principles:—This may be true—good men will generally govern well with almost any constitution: But why in laying the foundation of the social system, need we unnecessarily leave a door open to improper regulations? —This is a very general and unguarded clause, and many evils may flow from that part which authorises the congress to regulate electionsWere it omitted, the regulations of elections would be solely in the respective states, where the people are substantially represented; and where the elections ought to be regulated, otherwise to secure a representation from all parts of the community, in making the constitution, we ought to provide for dividing each state into a proper number of districts, and for confining the electors in each district to the choice of some men, who shall have a permanent interest and residence in it; and also for this essential object, that the representative elected shall have a majority of the votes of those electors who shall attend and give their votes.

Don't let the House of Representatives set its own size, give that over to the people. For a 'minimalist' approach, that works very well: let the people vote across the Nation in their States on proposed size. If the Congress wants a different size, make it come to the people and the States and *ask for it*.

Next remove the power of Congress to legislate elections and leave that up to the States. By removing the definitional power on elections, the States then have the ability to choose how they want to within the State to find the number of Representatives necessary to represent the people. This is devolving power to the States and the people so as to remove any chance to abuse it from the National side. By common agreement the States set their election to a single day, as done via the Constitution, but how they fill the Representative seats is left up to them, also. Do note that the conception is one of a district based system, but by leaving the concept of how elections are to be run up to each State, multiple systems could be seen across the Union and yet the results would not infringe upon any individual's right to choose. Those States that want district based Representation can have them and those wanting at-large can have that, and those delegating some to districts and some to at-large could have that, too. By making districts allowable one does not mandate them.

And the goal of this first fix is given thusly:

Perhaps, nothing could be more disjointed, unweildly and incompetent to doing business with harmony and dispatch, than a federal house of representatives properly numerous for the great objects of taxation, &c. collected from the several states; whether such men would ever act in concert; whether they would not worry along a few years, and then be the means of separating the parts of the union, is very problematical?—View this system in whatever form we can, propriety brings us still to this point, a federal government possessed of general and complete powers, as to those national objects which cannot well come under the cognizance of the internal laws of the respective states, and this federal government, accordingly, consisting of branches not very numerous.

It is to remove a complete suite of powers from the federal and ensure they are held by the whole of the Nation so as to keep the federal in check. The goal of efficient government is not to make it run smoothly, but to keep it in check and balance by the States. By putting a whole power into the hands of the National government, the opportunity for abuse and expansion arises, thus the goal is to mitigate that by ensuring that no individual or set of individuals can arise in power so as to consolidate and expand those powers.

In this first fix we have one of the greatest criticisms of the current government: not that it is too unwieldy to do good, but it is to wieldy to do ill. This is, perhaps, one of the keenest observations on what efficient representative democracy *is*: it must efficiently be representative and democratic FIRST. The goal of government that is based on representative democracy must be unwieldy enough so as to not concentrate powers and ensure that they are dispersed over enough people so as to limit the abuses of same.

It is very strange that one of the most keen observations on how to create a good federal system is relegated to the 'Anti-Federalist' pile because it dares to criticize the Constitution as written. This is *not* a criticism of federalism but an attempt to make it work more within the confines of what federalism *is*. This first part is not an argument for *less* federalism but *more of it* and *mean it*.

Then Federal Farmer finds much good with the Senate and says *why* it is good:

The house of representatives is on the plan of consolidation, but the senate is entirely on the federal plan; and Delaware will have as much constitutional influence in the senate, as the largest state in the union; and in this senate are lodged legislative, executive and judicial powers: Ten states in this union urge that they are small states, nine of which were present in the convention.—They were interested in collecting large powers into the hands of the senate, in which each state still will have its equal share of power. I suppose it was impracticable for the three large states, as they were called, to get the senate formed on any other principles: But this only proves, that we cannot form one general government on equal and just principles—and proves, that we ought not to lodge in it such extensive powers before we are convinced of the practicability of organizing it on just and equal principles.


The clause referred to, respecting the elections of representatives, empowers the general legislature to regulate the elections of senators also, "except as to the places of chusing senators."—There is, therefore, but little more security in the elections than in those of representatives:—Fourteen senators make a quorum for business, and a majority of the senators present give the vote of the senate, except in giving judgment upon an impeachment, or in making treaties, or in expelling a member, when two-thirds of the senators present must agree.—The members of the legislature are not excluded from being elected to any military offices, or any civil offices, except those created, or the emoluments of which shall be increased by themselves: two-thirds of the members present, of either house, may expel a member at pleasure. The senate is an independent branch of the legislature, a court for trying impeachments, and also a part of the executive, having a negative in the making of all treaties, and in appointing almost all officers.

Yes, this is an individual lumped in with the 'Anti-Federalists', amazing, isn't it? Yes, he gets 'federalism' and perhaps a bit more pointedly than the 'federalists' liked in identifying the Senate's powers, the division of powers and how it acts as a check and balance, which makes his criticism of the House all the more pointed. He doesn't like the power on the elections, says so, but does not continue as he said his peace in the House portion.

His view on the Presidency is likewise insightful, and perhaps missed by many modern readers:

The vice-president is not a very important, if not an unnecessary part of the system—he may be a part of the senate at one period, and act as the supreme executive magistrate at another—The election of this officer, as well as of the president of the United States seems to be properly secured; but when we examine the powers of the president, and the forms of the executive, shall perceive that the general government, in this part, will have a strong tendency to aristocracy, or the government of the few. The executive is, in fact, the president and senate in all transactions of any importance; the president is connected with, or tied to the senate; he may always act with the senate, never can effectually counteract its views: The president can appoint no officer, civil or military, who shall not be agreeable to the senate; and the presumption is, that the will of so important a body will not be very easily controuled, and that it will exercise its powers with great address.

Yes, the Executive is housed between the President and the Senate. I am sure I heard that in school once or twice, but it tends to flow out of our minds when election season rolls around. And I will say that quite a large number of people have seen the VP in that exact, same, light. That said, the view that Senators and Presidents would tend towards aristocracy has been something of a problem with the longevity of members in the Senate and some number of family members also gaining high office. And the President's office has only been threatened a few times by family continuity: Adams', Roosevelts (extended family), Kennedys, Bushs with the Clintons trying to do similar as of late. The Senate has proven more attractive due to length of office and ability of incumbents to retain it and secure a greater power base for themselves via appropriations than the President has been able to do with relatively limited powers.

From there to the Judicial which Federal Farmer also sees much in agreement with and then some more observations:

In the judicial department, powers ever kept distinct in well balanced governments, are no less improperly blended in the hands of the same men—in the judges of the supreme court is lodged, the law, the equity and the fact.


The convention found that any but a small house of representatives would be expensive, and that it would be impracticable to assemble a large number of representatives. Not only the determination of the convention in this case, but the situation of the states, proves the impracticability of collecting, in any one point, a proper representation.

The formation of the senate, and the smallness of the house, being, therefore, the result of our situation, and the actual state of things, the evils which may attend the exercise of many powers in this national government may be considered as without a remedy.

And that was POINT 1!

Federal Farmer is pointing out that the ideals of federalism and democracy are being put under the problems of actually running them. By putting forward high concepts and then brokering them away, federal government that is not federal and representative government that does not represent is seen as a problem. One can see why many Federalists wanted his views put into the 'Anti-Federalist' arena: his complaint is that the Federalists aren't seriously looking at how to make federalism along with representative democracy *work* within the bounds of the income given.

Problems such as those given so far are not ones we normally expect from that era as we have been given it. While some 'Anti-Federalists' did prefer a confederal system, there are those that actually did understand federalism and then criticized the Constitution on federalist terms, and pointedly. The concepts of concentrating power, gaining aristocratic (or at least lineage dependant) attitudes, being drawn from the wealthy classes and being distant from the more common man show up time and again and all gain a source from representative democracy not being representative *enough*. This distinctive class separation leads to attitudes of factionalizing the people via politics and the goods that government can disburse and the crimes that it can prosecute.

It is that distance, between the governed and those who govern, that lead to disillusion by the people and distrust of National government. The road to representative democracy is to ensure that representative democracy is the means to that end, not to be an end in and of itself, but to ensure that the people, in their diversity, can create a good end as they see it. Those ends of Liberty ensuring Freedom via Democracy are hard ones to keep, especially when concepts of 'efficient government' arise time and again. One can have 'efficient government' but do not expect it to be representative nor to offer much in the way of Liberty or Freedom, as those are inefficient being vested in the people and not in government. The distance required by efficiency is destructive to those things, and as representatives become more distant and unknown, democracy itself wither, and soon the Liberty and Freedom it protects as power is secured to those in government and out of the hands of the governed.

The only ones who can stop that from happening is We the People, as that is trusted to no party, no sub-group, no caucus, no ruling body.

Democracy is ours for the making, if we dare to keep it, and step away from the tyranny of efficiency.

Lest we be destroyed by it.


Peregrine John said...

Fascinating, as always. Though some may disagree with certain points - or rather, because some may disagree! - I think that this would be an excellent essay to have discussed in every possibly relevant class, debate club and mock congress from High School onward. Certain terms (such as federalism) would likely need to be established beforehand for the younger groups, but it's pretty thorough in the discussion of the constitutional sources and why it was included that way.

Of course, it would also get people thinking about what is appropriate uses of power and what is not, and I'm uncertain that the Educational Powers would really want that.

A Jacksonian said...

John - The more I read of the 'Anti-Federalists' the more I am coming to realize that we have not been told about what their viewpoints were, and they were not a monobloc group.

Even worse is that some of them were much stronger advocates *of* federalism than those who get put in the 'Federalist' venue, and it is shocking to read cogent, well thought out and very, very pointed critiques of the Constitution and where the defects of it *could* lead. While many of those have not materialized (ex. a Monarchy arising or military dictatorship), the strain of views pointing out the long-term problems of democracy and republics that center on concentration of power and the weakening of democracy due to that is chilling.

These were not individuals who were 'knee jerk' reactionaries - they were educated individuals using reasoning and historical analysis to then analyze the current Constitution as proposed. Their insights gave us The Bill of Rights to help calm fears, but the structural concerns of the base document that have not been addressed or, indeed, weakened since then... those views on taxation, representative democracy and how power is garnered via factionalization is a clear and coherent view that rings true today. We see the impact of *doing those things* warned about and we now see the type of system that was predicted.

A very queasy feeling when reading the 'Anti-Federalists' and Tom Paine these days. The more I come to understand them, the more concerned I get that we are losing democracy... and liberty... and so many think that is a *good* thing as they don't want to think of the world without those things which they are letting go of.

This is a vital conversation that should not be stilled in the land of the free.

If we wish to remain free, that is...