“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.” James Madison, Federalist Papers, No. 10
In addressing the causes of political and social strife that have plagued America in the recent era, one must assess the nature and causes of conflict. I believe there has been a breakdown in the trust in civil and political institutions and the fairness of decisions made by them.
In our country there are many factions that have felt marginalized by the system, and feel for various reasons the system has been unjust or corrupt. In a free democracy like ours information is spread and disseminated very quickly and widely across the nation. Information about institutionalized corruption in the system, including the justice system, has become widely recognized. This has led to many of those who have felt the system to be corrupt to distrust the civil and political institutions of the country, including political parties.
Those groups of individuals have in various forms resorted to various kinds of rebellion against the system, whether it is political disintegration of the traditional party structure due to attacks against the traditional values and leadership of the Party, or simply armed violence and popular political movements that attack the traditional Party system.
Madison argued that the answer to a factious spirit was to be found in the republican principle; that enlightened statesman, that have been carefully selected from a larger body and distilled into a qualified and more capable body of decision makers, could prevent the harmful designs of any faction united by or holding the same or common passion, that was destructive in its design to the rights, and liberties of others. Unfortunately, people have lost faith in the notion of enlightened statesman and leadership all together. The American public seems to be moving in the direction of Robespierre and the Radical Jacobin Sans Culottes of the French Revolution, rather than towards just and morally enlightened governance.
A society cannot function properly if people do not trust the civil and political institutions of the system the people are governed under. Of course, part of the problem is that no system can function when people are dishonest, or where institutional corruption has compromised its society’s ethics and the rule of law.
In Federalist Paper No. 51, Madison argues, “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit ”.
The only solution that I can proffer is to say as has been said before in the Latin Maxims- the world is very little governed by wisdom, so let us be good, and try to do what is right and honest.