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Madison's Relevance Today: Modern Echoes of Federalist No.
The Federalist Papers penned by James Madison, John Jay, and others in defense of the Constitution during the hotly contested period of its ratification remain some of the most significant documents in American political history to this date. Detailing the arguments of some of the men who helped to frame and influence the composition of the foundational body of laws and structure of government of what is now the most powerful nation on Earth, reading the Federalist Papers is akin to reading the minds of those that have helped to shape global politics and political ideals. At the same time, the fact that so many of the arguments made in these documents are now foregone conclusions, and that the rights and reasons invoked (not to mention the language in which they are invoked) seem so antiquated can make the Federalist Papers appear distant and no longer directly relevant.
A closer examination of modern perspectives and the perspectives that these centuries-old older documents and arguments demonstrate, however, shows that there are still many current examples of their relevance. Debates regarding the nature of government and the intent of the Constitution wage continually to this day, often without significant differences in the basic philosophical underpinnings of the argument than were advanced by the Federalist and the Anti-Federalists during the period of ratification in the late 1780s. A comparison of one of the Federalist Papers to modern arguments and issues being discussed in the popular media makes it undeniably clear that the relevance of the Federalists lives on.
Federalist No. 10
As famous as the Federalist Papers are as whole, there are some definite standouts in terms of historical significance, scholarly esteem, and modern relevance. Federalist No. 10, in which James Madison outlines clear and concrete reasons for the implementation of a large republic (or representative democracy) in order to control the effects of minority or majority factions and thus ensure continued individual liberty, is one of these stand-outs. With very clear and supremely rational arguments laid out concerning both the dangers of factions and the reason that the type of government designed in the Constitution would be adepts at addressing and correcting these dangers, this document is still regarded as one of the most influential and important pieces of American political science. Truly, for such a short document it manages to cover a broad range of facts, conclusions, and implications
Madison addresses the proclivities of mankind and the problems these tendencies cause for democracies, noting the "zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points" that exists in any large population of individuals (par. 7). Going on to outline reasons that the liberty to engage in this zeal for differing opinion should be protected, as well as the impracticalities of trying to prevent it should a desire to do so exist, Madison argues that a republic/representative democracy is the best and safest way to go about limiting the effects of factions while still allowing the diversity and thought and opinion to flourish. The relevance of this line of reasoning and the overall problem of factions is still readily apparent in many examples from the modern media.
Modern Media Relevance
One need not look very far to find a modern public and policy debate that touches on the same issues as Federalist No. 10. The current debate regarding same-sex marriage is one example of a faction or factions trying to change policy based on their own beliefs, and not necessarily from the perspective of liberty, justice, or the long-term benefit of the nation and its population. Both major sides of the debate can be seen as factions in the manner that Madison describes, in fact, and have been characterized as such by their opponents. Those that oppose same-sex marriage point to the fact that votes in many states, even liberal states, clearly show that the populous does not believe same-sex marriage should be a protected right (McCormack, par. 6). The fact that same-sex marriage runs counter to long-standing de facto interpretations of the law and that a majority of voters have refused to change the law could be used to suggest that proponents are a faction trying to exert control.
It could also be said that this line of reasoning is itself the reasoning of an inherently anti-liberal faction, as it is built solely on circumstantial facts rather than on principles of liberty. According to this line of…[continue]
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