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On Faction: “There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction…” Actually, James, there are three.

Even in a completely white, English speaking country like early America,
there was lots of diversity. People putting loyalty to their tribe ahead
of loyalty to their nation was a legitimate concern. The American Civil War
was not fought along regional and cultural lines by accident.
It was tribal warfare.
— No Easy Answers

“AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular Governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it.

“The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular Governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations.


“It will be found, indeed, on a candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses under which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our Governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other causes will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes; and, particularly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of public engagements, and alarm for private rights, which are echoed from one end of the continent to the other. These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice, with which a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations.

“By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

“There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

“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.”

RTWT @ The Federalist #10 by James Madison

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • SoylentGreen July 12, 2018, 8:44 AM

    The third being – I presume – war? What troubles me with the Federalist excerpt is that there is no solution proposed unless it be that there is truly only one acceptable solution… “to control the effects”. That presumes that suppression or war are not acceptable.

    Some additional options have been exercised by Donald Trump:
    1) Expose a factuous group with “sandwich issues” that is, things which make obvious the hypocrisy of their factious perspectives.
    2) Distract them with a barrage of new things for which they have to reformulate their factious attacks.
    3) Be so successful as to drown their perspective. (Anyone tired of winning yet?)

  • Howard Nelson July 12, 2018, 9:44 AM

    Why not apply the ancient approach of presenting a better idea, explaining its underlying principles and how they would be applied in practice to improve the ‘problem’ situation?
    To determine if ‘better’ compare to the faction’s position cost:benefit, necessity, and probable consequences.
    Answer – who will benefit by how much and who will suffer by how much?
    Complexity unraveled leads to perplexity. Take the Founders’ way — values, principles, priorities, protective protocols against damaging consequences of actions taken.

  • arcs July 12, 2018, 10:32 AM

    Green Pill,

    I suspect the third way is annihilation of air to the mischiefs of the faction. So far, I still believe an answer can be found somewhere short of war. So far. Make the monkeys watch a chicken or two having its neck wrung might be enough to do the trick for a while.

  • ghostsniper July 12, 2018, 10:49 AM

    A thief lecturing about the wrongness of stealing.