The View From 1776

The Main Constitutional Check and Balance

      http://www.thomasbrewton.com/index.php/weblog/the_main_constitutional_check_and_balance/

Diversity of economic and other interests, expressed at the state level, was to be the principal Constitutional means of preventing dictatorial power at the Federal level.  Those checks and balances were destroyed by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which imposed socialistic collectivization upon the nation under programs modeled on Mussolini’s Fascist state corporatism.


Robert Curry gives us his next installment describing the influences of the Scottish Enlightenment upon the founding of the United States.  His earlier essays can be read here, here, here, and here.


The Scottish Enlightenment & America’s Founding

Madison’s Famous Argument
By Robert Curry

The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it,...the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression…Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will…invade the rights of other citizens.?????

James Madison, The Federalist No. 10
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No. 10 is often cited as the single most important statement of American political thought,?and?the quoted passage is?the most famous argument?Madison presents?in No. 10.?
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Despite a mountain of scholarly writings?generated?in the course of?the last century?analyzing the argument, its roots in the Scottish Enlightenment have gone largely unnoticed.? It fell to Samuel Fleischacker to point out?that Madison’s argument is?taken from Adam Smith.? He makes?it?clear that?Madison’s argument?is?an extension of the argument Smith offers in The Wealth of Nations for the advantages of a multiplicity of religious sects.?
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Stated briefly?Madison’s argument?is this: a multiplicity of factions in an extended republic makes each faction less dangerous than it would be in a small society.?In Wealth, Smith argues that a multiplicity of sects makes it difficult for any single religious group to become large enough to threaten the whole society.? As Fleischacker observes: Smith’s analysis of what happens to religious sects when left alone by government follows…the logic of the market: competition?[benefits]?society.? And just this logic underlies Madison’s analysis of factions.??
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For Smith and for Madison,?in economics and in faith, their answers?have?the same?logic: the free market and freedom of religion, instead of mercantilism and?a religious establishment.  This is also the logic of Madison’s argument for how society will function in a free republic.???
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Fleischaker even makes a persuasive case* that?in addition to borrowing Smith’s logic?Madison alludes?directly?to Smith in the penultimate paragraph of No. 10.? In that paragraph, Madison?writes:  ...a religious sect, may degenerate into a political faction in a part of [the nation]?but the variety of sects?dispersed over the entire face of it,?must secure the national Councils against any danger from that source.
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In considering Adam Smith’s argument for the disestablishment of religion as the basis of?Madison’s?argument in No. 10, we do well to remember that Madison’s views on religious freedom are central to his thinking.? As Garry Wills writes: As a champion of religious liberty he is equal, perhaps superior, to Jefferson—and no one else is in the running.? We know that?the depth of?Madison’s thinking on religious freedom was?gained during his?years at Princeton, where religious freedom was practiced and defended.???There he was mentored by?John Witherspoon, a champion of religious freedom, a Scot,?and a student of Adam Smith.?
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* The impact on America:?Scottish philosophy and the American founding in The Scottish Enlightenment, ed. Alexander Broadie.