Are Russians Ready for Democracy?
and Could James Madison Help Them?

©Alan Kimball
University of Oregon

Table of Contents


Federalist Papers in the First Years of Post-Soviet Politics: Political Traditions Clash?

The questions posed in the title pull together two great but different traditions, one American (USA) and the other Russian. Here we reflect simultaneously on the one great American and the one great Russian contribution to world institutional history. The USA gave the world an enduring example of government based on electoral, representative, federal, and written-constitutional principles. The Russian tradition of government represents one of world's most stable and thoroughgoing bureaucratic, autocratic and "statist" systems. Maybe these traditions are eroding in our time, both in the USA and Russia, so the topic is not just historical and theoretical. It is also timely and of every-day importance. Global institutional history has been enriched by both of these models but also by their deterioration. Thus another question = Are either the American or Russian traditions still alive in our time?

The publication of a Russian translation of The Federalist Papers in 1992 and its remarkable reception in a time of constitutional crisis in the former Soviet Union provides a laboratory for the experiment that follows.

{_{ Beginning with its 1991 Fall issue and continuing for well over a half decade, Telos contained something of note on federalism and/or populism. Especially see Paul Piccone, "The Crisis of Liberalism and the Emergence of Federal Populism", Telos (1991 Fall) 89:7-44. A whole issue, Telos 91 (1992 Spring), is devoted to federalism and contains an introduction by Robert D'Amico and Paul Piccone, as well as Gary Ulmen's annotated translation of Carl Schmitt's "The Constitutional Theory of Federalism (1928)". In a later complex piece, Piccone touched on many of these themes, "The Actuality of Traditions", Telos 94 (1992-93 Winter):89-102.}_}

The Russian translation of The Federalist Papers achieved a status which now has a word to describe it in Russian= bestseller. The University of Oregon magazine Old Oregon published an article titled "The Hottest Book in Moscow" (1992 Spring), devoted to UO alumna Lisa Chalidze and her husband Valery, publishers and editors of the translation. "Hottest Book" may be an exaggeration, but the translation did reach Boris Yeltsin's desk. It was surely as able to influence events in Russia as the works of Montesquieu, Hume or Locke were able to influence events in America two centuries ago. However, the course of constitutional history in the Post-Soviet era suggests that few of the essential concepts embodied in The Federalist Papers took hold among those who have been calling the shots.


Rossiter Abridgment

The obvious must be acknowledged = the papers cannot be abridged without loss. Practical considerations encouraged the editors of the Russian edition of The Federalist Papers to follow the abridgment suggested by conservative historian and pundit Clinton Rossiter. Rossiter boiled the papers down to what he thought were the 21 most important, leaving the remaining 64 to antiquarians. The editors of the Russian translation thus reduced the papers to 25% their original length. Russians have been given a Twentieth-century American establishmentarian nationalist (i.e., anti-federalist) abridgment of the debates.

Abridgment Short-changes Hamilton

In this abridgment, Russians cannot read some of the most useful things Hamilton had to say to them about imperialist competition for markets, opportunities for expansion in undeveloped territories, and the dangers of foreign intrusion into a weakened and vulnerable domestic economy. Hamilton's statist views on standing militias and navies, on taxes and the general problem of raising state revenue to support vital centralized national functions are excluded from the Rossiter abridgment, e.g., numbers 30-36 [excerpts | More on Hamilton, Madison, armies and war = S. Richman, "The Constitution and the Standing Army" - (E-TXT)].

At one point in these papers, also excluded from the Russian translation, Hamilton exposed the perfidy of Western Europe and the contrasting glorious destiny of his own nation [11:62-69, excerpt]. Hamilton's mood would be quite familiar to Russians steeped in the Slavophile and Panslav traditions [ID], or even the Pamiat' tradition [ID].


Simple "Laissez Faire" Notions Displaced the Idea of Democracy

It's not that Russians have been unwilling to follow theoretical formulae imported from abroad. For the longest time, Yeltsin and his advisers embraced the free-market ideas of Harvard-trained Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs and others. However, European democratic political formulae have been honored only in varieties of "sham democratization". Free market is one thing. Democracy is another. In the mentality of the New World Order, the two have been conflated with one another. More accurately, in the contemporary mind one has displaced the other and has been substituted for it. The idea of the free market has displaced the idea of democracy.

{_{ See Jeffrey Sachs, "MOSCOW MELTDOWN", New Republic (1993 Fall).}_}

Before the Russian government sent Sachs packing, very few American critics were willing to question these abstract market theorists. However, one of the co-authors of the famous "500-day" plan under Gorbachev, Stanislav Shatalin [ID], criticized Sach's main ally among the Yeltsin associates, Egor Gaidar. Prominent scholarly Kremlin-watcher Peter Reddaway called Sachs's economic plans for Russia "a fraud".

{_{ 1993ja28:NYR:30.}_}

Lynn D. Nelson and Irina Kuzes took the market reforms to task in "Textbook Principles vs. Russian Realities".

{_{ 1993my28:Moscow News 22:6 [hereafter MNe].}_}

Sachs' partner Anders Aslund wrote a reply to Nelson and Kuzes. Anders offered some glimpse of his absolutist abstractions. When questioned about the application of abstract theories to a situation as particular as Russia, he replied, "While preconditions and applications of theory vary, economic theory remains universal".

{_{ 1993au20:MNe,34:2.}_}

It might be said that Russians have confused market theory with political theory, but the whole discourse on post-Soviet Russia shares in this confusion = free market ideas equal democratic ideas. Chris Woltermann tried to counter this trend on the pages of Telos, arguing that privatization and political reform are distinct, sometimes independent variables. Russia was trying a difficult triple reform = to decentralize by democratic means in order to recentralize in an ordered, federalist fashion while carrying out so-called "privatization". The result was what the great German sociologist Max Weber [ID] might have called "sham marketization", much as he called the post-1905 political order in tsarist Russia "sham constitutionalism". So long as apparatchiki run the show, the whole process serves only "to mask -- and thereby facilitate -- the state's growing subjugation of private interests".

{_{ "Federalism, Democracy and the People", Telos 95 (1993 Spring):135-36.}_}

Walter Adams and James W. Brock kept the distinction between economic and political reform clear. They composed an imaginary dialog between an Eastern European "Prime Minister", presumably a Russian, and an "Adviser", presumably an American free-marketeer of the Milton Friedman school.

{_{ Walter Adams and James W. Brock, Adam Smith Goes to Moscow: A Dialog on Radical Reforms (1993).}_}

Their dialog covered the whole ground of privatization, deregulation, creation of a market economy by "Shock Therapy", reliance on the "Invisible Hand" to regulate the process and bring the greatest good to the greatest number, etc. They concluded that the essential problems of Eastern Europe were not so much economic as institutional and political. To put it in the old-fashioned 19th-century way, Eastern European problems were problems of political economy. Toward the end of their discussion of post-Soviet transition, the adviser and prime minister shifted to problems of governance. They dropped the subject micro-economics in favor of James Madison's Federalist number 51.

Woltermann's article and the Smith-Brock fantasy both shed light on the real Unterbau of Russian events = the old statist traditions prevailed, central power maintained an unchecked control over the whole process of economic reform and thus transformed it altogether, just as it transformed the political process into another victory of the centralized state.

{_{ Georgi Derluguian, "Rouge et Noire: Contradictions of the Soviet Collapse", Telos 96 (1993 Summer):16 passed very close to this thought and cited Andrei Furson in Mirovaia ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia (this title was badly garbled in the Telos transliteration; Telos does well by the German language, but too often makes a mush out of Russian). Then Gianfranco Miglio, "The Cultural Roots of the Federalist Revolution", Telos 97 (1993 Fall):33 passed over the opposite point when speaking of the political economy of Italy and Belgium where "the state came too late", where regions created the central government, rather than the other way around. Discussing Russia, we have to reverse Miglio's formula. In 1905, the Russian historian and liberal party leader Paul Miliukov presented an extended political-economic explanation of the historical growth of state power and the retarded growth of social independence in Russia, thus illuminating by Russian example the contrast suggested in the Derluguian and Miglio articles. See Miliukov, Russia and Its Crisis (1962):105-165. Also see Alan Kimball, Russian Historian Paul Miliukov on State and Society in 1905: the Historical Roots of European Liberalism [TXT].}_}


The Wisdom of the Wall Street Journal

Notice how the confusion of borrowed market mechanisms and the realities of political struggle in Russia can be both hopelessly comical and pitiful at the same time. During the August, 1991, coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Wall Street Journal [WSJ] ran a front page story with this headline =


Who were "they" in the final line of that headline? Who threatened McDonald's future and thus the better future of the USSR? The article described coup leaders as old men who wear frumpy clothes. Unlike the Moscow McDonald's diners in the headline, the scoundrels at the head of the coup were not only aged but they were nerds. They were tasteless consumers.

That is how WSJ opened a lead story about the State Committee for the Emergency Situation. You would not gather from this story that the Coup Committee was at that moment aiming to overthrow the constitutional authority of one of the world's great nations. WSJ sought the essence of the Junta in their "ill-fitting suits" rather than their politics. For WSJ, the uniforms not only distinguished but defined the combatants. The Gorbachev revolution came down to something readers of WSJ could understand = Calvin Cline vs. the Salvation Army. WSJ readers thus had no difficulty identifying good guys and villains.

What further distinguished these dowdy old men was that their Salvation Army, so to speak, included tanks that rumbled down the cruel streets not far from the modern McDonald's. How "old fashioned", remarked WSJ, summarizing its description of the bad guys. The coup was led by men who were old and, with their tanks, out of fashion.

Those who fretted about the coup's threat to world peace or Perestroika, or who connected the fears of coup leaders with an impending Union Treaty Gorbachev was about to sign appeared to have simply misunderstood what this was all about. That Gorbachev was about to transform Russian political relations with areas hitherto subordinated to Moscow did not interest this WSJ article. Not to worry, the article continued. These old guys have no future =

the present is not so easily erased. And thus, through it all yesterday, Muscovites waited patiently at the McDonald's here. 'It's business as usual', McDonald's Corp. said in Oak Brook, Ill.

We were all "old fashioned", one might suppose, who thought it was surely a lot easier to say "business as usual" in Oak Brook, Ill., or in the editorial offices of WSJ, than it was behind the barricades awaiting those poorly dressed old men's tanks and armored personnel carriers. Equally "old fashioned" were those who thought that the real action was the Muscovites who poured into the streets and put their lives on the line around the Russian Parliament Building, not those lined up at the burger stand.

{_{ See Victoria Bonnell, Ann Cooper, and Gregory Freidin, eds., Russia at the Barricades: Eyewitness Accounts of the August 1991 Coup (1994).}_}

"The present is not so easily erased" is such a maliciously wrong turn of phrase in the WSJ article. "The present" can always be easily erased. Indeed, the new constitution engineered by Yeltsin, passed in December, 1993, and still in force as we enter the 21st century, has all but erased the federal principles that were under discussion in 1991. They were kept alive into the summer of 1993, then came Yeltsin's attack on Parliament and the plebiscite in December. The coup threatened democratic, representational government and a process of political perestroika, not the McDonald's hamburger consumers or market economics as a whole. McDonald's might flourish even if Stalin were to return -- indeed, it flourished under Yeltsin -- but democracy might not.

{_{ Mikhail Yur'ev, a leading figure in Interprom, a powerful organization of politically active manufacturers, described the following relationship between business and politics = "If it is announced tomorrow that a military junta has come to power, I will not declare my opposition at once, but first see what it is going to do" [1993ap30:MNe#18:6].}_}

What WSJ suggested however was that the future of Russia would not be determined on the field of political struggle. The bright tomorrow dawned beneath the golden arches far from all that "old fashioned" mess. The arches served WSJ as the iconographic representation of its universal absolute, the free market. They also serve who receive the Big Mac and wait.

The tidy, uniform, antiseptic environment of McDonald's is not unlike that which surrounds certain recent trends of thought about civic culture and world events.

{_{ In this connection, see William Leach, Land of Desire: Merchants, Money, and the Rise of a New American Culture (1993).}_}

The messy show on Tiananmen Square in 1989 had little effect on the sort of "business as usual" that fills the columns of WSJ. We would all rather it hadn't happened that way, but those "old fashioned" actions of tanks against crowds, or of crowds against tanks, are simply not where it's at any more. A nation that crushes protesters with tanks might still be a favored business partner. The connection between "free markets" and federalist constitutionalism is anything but certain. Jeans-clad onlookers who represent the future stick close to their franchise outlets and hope for the best. The WSJ article seemed at first some sort of joke. If not a joke, then we are in as much need of lessons from The Federalist Papers as are the Russians.

Those who fear or disparage hard-ball politics or any form of vigorous public activism in America today are not likely to show any sympathy or understanding of the positive and creative potential of public activism or hard-ball politics in Russia. Nor will they want to hear the message of revolutionary state building embedded in The Federalist Papers. Wire-service accounts seriously burden our clear thinking when they portray the massive economic, social and political struggles in Russia as nothing more than disorder and breakdown, as an interruption of a lunch break, as the intrusion of some angry, armed terrorist into the busy burger hut. We really must more often ask ourselves if the ethos of the corporation and its doctrine "free market" might not be as often anti-democratic in our wonderfully dynamic and factionalized political life. The crowds that gather in the streets where the WTO and other "free trade" organizations meet, here and abroad, are treated in our press much as the various factions against Yeltsin were treated.

Since the collapse of the USSR our media reports on Russian politics have been guided by a pervasive but unexamined assumption that factional, interest-based politics and the exercise of what we might call "checks and balances" are dysfunctional rather than essential mechanisms of something not altogether unlike the republican process which was first clearly articulated by James Madison.

{_{ Roy Medvedev drew attention to the lack of authentic constitutional instincts in Yeltsin and his presidential suite. As they destroyed the old constitution and crushed its Parliament, they revealed their ignorance of a central fact of modern parliamentary government = "Conflicts between the legislative and executive are natural in a democratic state". Medvedev again, as so often in the past, nailed statism to the wall = "Yeltsin was fighting not for reform but for his own personal power" [1993oc17:MGW].}_}

The main activists were transformed by the press into heroes ("democrats") and demons ("hardliners") in so far as they fit or offended McMedia expectations.

{_{ Abraham Brumberg described the image of democrat Yeltsin vs. hardliners as "essentially humbug". 1993mr22:NYT. Also see Jonathan Steele on this same point in 1993mr28:MGW.}_}

A more serious unexamined assumption is this = democracy means "free market", and free market means democracy. Only if the political word "democracy" is conflated with the economic word "free-market" can we believe the assertion that the Presidential attack on Parliament was carried out in the name of democracy.

{_{ 1993se22:NYT carried the story of Yeltsin's suspension of Parliament, a feature editorial stated, "Boris Yeltsin had no constitutional authority to suspend the powers of Russia's Parliament yesterday and call early elections. But his bold coup could help consolidate Russian democracy...".}_}

Stephen Kotkin, in Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000 (2001) summarized this point very well.

Russia's predicament demonstrated a number of what should be self-evident truths. That civil society and a liberal state were not opposites but aspects of the same phenomenon. That government was not the enemy of liberty but its sine qua non. That private property without good government was not worth what it otherwise would have been. In short, that good government was the most precious thing a people could have. Russia's challenge was not cultural or economic but institutional, a problem of governability, especially of its governing institutions. This was the same challenge, in countless variations, across much of the contemporary world. [170]

We continue to ask if Russians are ready for the market economy, when we should first ask if Russians, and other peoples within the sphere of Russian power, are ready for democratic, federal, representational government. Like the imaginary Prime Minister and Adviser above, Russians could have found more of use in Federalist than in Wealth of Nations as they struggled to (re)form a more perfect union.

{_{ Russian readers who do not know English have been able to learn about the American federalist tradition for many years. In the nineteenth century, Stepan Fortunatov wrote Politicheskie ucheniia v Soedinennykh Shtatakh (MVA:1879). More recently, A. A. Mishin, Konstitutsiia SShA: Politiko-pravovoi kommentarii (MVA:"Mezhdunar. otnosheniia",1985) and Konstitutsiia SShA: Istoriia i sovremennost' (MVA:1988) provided a modern translation of the USA constitution and accompanied it with useful commentary, only occasionally laughable in that famous Soviet way. Boris Shiriaev, Politicheskaia bor'ba v SShA v 1783-1801 gg. (LGR:LGU,1981) and Vladimir Sogrin, Osnovateli SShA: Istoricheskie portrety, translated into English as Founding Fathers of the United States (MVA:Progress,1988) provide useful information on the constitution-building process in the USA. [Sogrin edited a collection on contemporary Russian politics in 1990, available in English].}_}

In 1990, the Russian historian of early America, N. N. Bolkhovitinov, argued against the official Soviet view when he contended that American constitutionalism was not crudely "bourgeois" and time-bound. In a widely read popular historical magazine, Bolkhovitinov argued that the "Great French Revolution", with the intensity of its class antagonisms and the depth of its feudal contradictions, might be more significant than the American Revolution. The American Revolution, however, was "more consequential and permanent" and a more durable model of democratic revolution, mainly because the American people held on to their victory, consolidated it in a constitutional structure which created a democratic republic, and protected social freedom and independence in the Bill of Rights.

{_{ "Revoliutsiia 1789 g., gil'otina i termidor", Vstrechi s istoriei 3 (1990):3-16]. Compare Bolkhovitinov's views with those of Hanna Arendt, mentioned below.}_}


The Federalist Papers As An Ensemble

The eighty-five original numbers of The Federalist Papers were op/ed pieces in the form of political manifestoes, written in defense of the constitutional draft offered the American people by the Philadelphia Convention in the fall of 1787. In number 1, Alexander Hamilton laid out the general arguments and outlined the papers to follow. John Jay took up the question of international relations and diplomacy in numbers 2-5. Hamilton wrote all but five of the following 31 papers which appeared between November, 1787, and the first days of January, 1788 (numbers 6-36).

Hamilton's assignment was to demonstrate the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederacy which the proposed constitution would replace. He gnawed like the proverbial hound on two bones = the inability of a loose confederation to solve the problems of war and taxation. He argued for federal governmental authority over "defense". In Hamilton's view, the need for a strong national defense derived not only from the menace of international aggression, but also from the threat and the promise of imperialism, as well as from the dangers of domestic insurrection and factional disorder. He warned that powerful colonial empires threatened the new Union, but he also promised that a strong general government would allow the USA to do some profitable threatening of its own.

{_{ This is the Hamilton that Michael Lind, senior editor of Harper's, sought to revive in "Hamilton's Legacy", The Wilson Quarterly (1994 Summer):40-52.}_}

In connection with disorderly political opposition, Hamilton referred time and again to Shays' Rebellion. He used the phrase "internal war" [8:46].

{_{ Numbers in brackets within the text first refer to the appropriate issue or "chapter" in any edition of The Federalist. The number that follows the colon is the page number in this particular edition = Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist: A Commentary on the Constitution of the United States; being a Collection of Essays written in Support of the Constitution agreed upon September 17, 1787, by the Federal Convention (NYC: Modern Library).
     We must always remind ourselves that exclusive attention to The Federalist favors one side of a many-sided debate which accompanied the ratification and first amendments of the US Constitution. When seeking insight in the American past, the serious constitutionalist would need also to read the anti-federalists, as in Bernard Bailyn, ed., The Debate on the Constitution: Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters during the Struggle over Ratification (1993+); and Herbert Storing, ed., The Complete Anti-Federalist (1981+, with abridgment). The most complete record of the debates is now appearing under the sponsorship of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin = Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution.
     I would like also to acknowledge the following useful discussions of the origins of the US Constitution = Garry Wills, Explaining America: The Federalist (1981); Douglass Adair, "The Tenth Federalist Revisited", in Trevor Colbourn, ed., Fame and the Founding Fathers (NYC:Norton,1974); and Robert A. Dahl, A Preface to Democratic Theory (1956).}_}

In number 9, Hamilton used the word "faction" with increasing frequency, as if to set the stage for James Madison's first paper, number 10, the most widely remembered essay in the collection, and one of the most powerful brief pieces of political theory ever written. I would compare Federalist No. 10 with Karl Marx's "Preface to a Contribution to Political Economy" (1859) for its high-proof political-theoretical distillation and also for its deceptive wholeness when taken out of context. Madison isolated the problem of faction and pulled it loose from its immediate American setting and the strong connection in everyone's mind with Shays' Rebellion and similar specific instances of post-revolutionary disorder. Madison treated faction as a universal form of divisiveness and struggle, and explored the paradox of faction = both the essence and the nemesis of freedom. Madison thus rendered Hamilton's earlier (and subsequent) papers more rich, profound and problematic. It probably should be stated more bluntly that Madison contradicted Hamilton's deep-seated aversion to factional diversity in politics [consider this excerpt from No. 35].

It is unfortunate that number 10 is so often anthologized by itself and so rarely read in the body of the whole complex set of arguments. It must be seen in organic relationship to the political ideas expressed by the two other authors and as part of a dynamic warp and woof of Madison's own political thought. Under the pseudonym Publius, the three authors of Federalist adhered to the general plan laid out in number one, but they responded to the unfolding and unpredictable debate. They allowed themselves supple detours, repetitions, augmentations and refinements. Multiple authorship by itself complicated and sometimes disfocused the papers. The contingencies of an actual on-going political struggle surrounded and shaped the debate. The texts inclined toward persuasive and practical argument and away from pure political theory. Nonetheless -- or perhaps for those very reasons -- a satisfying, dense harmony of thought pervades the whole package. Federalist does not anthologize well. After all, the clash of idea and attitude around the word "faction" itself represents another example of faction at work among the three authors themselves.

In numbers 11-13, Hamilton again took up the fascinating and quotidian attack on the Articles of Confederation and the specific weaknesses of the existing union. The papers don't return to the high realm of political-theoretical generalization, such as in number 10, until two dozen or so issues later. In between, Madison again interrupted Hamilton a second time with a "stand alone" article, number 14. This time Madison offered a brief resume of the argument thus far [14:79] and expanded upon Hamilton's longish and unexplicated quote from Montesquieu. Madison here gave more shape to the argument that democracy could work in large territories. Democracy was not limited to cozy neighborhoods or ancient city-states, said Madison. The huge "CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC" which the thirteen colonies were about to form promised to extend the geographical range of effective democratic government, rather than to undermine it, as Montesquieu seemed to predict. [SAC site on Montesquieu] After number 14, except for his account of three instructive historical examples of federative association in numbers 18-20, Madison did not appear again until number 37. In the meantime, Hamilton shifted from standing militias and navies to taxes, to the problem of raising revenue to support vital centralized national functions, particularly in numbers 30-36.

As the federalist/anti-federalist debate intensified, the papers moved from weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation to solutions promised in the new constitution. Madison stepped forth in the first weeks of 1788 with a remarkable series of fifteen papers (numbers 37-51). The first eight in this series (numbers 37-44) were on average 50% longer than those that came before and those that followed. Only four of the 85 Federalist papers (numbers 22, 78, 83, and 84) were longer than the average of these eight. With their reference to the arduous deliberations within the Philadelphia Convention, they added a persuasive immediacy to the debate. Only six of these fifteen papers were included in the Rossiter abbreviation.

In numbers 37-46, Madison sought to mollify the wide outrage provoked by the fact that the new constitution was presented for ratification directly to the people in irregular assembly, rather than to existing state legislatures.

{_{ Susan Bishay, "Conformist Federalism", Telos (1993 Spring) 95:77-108, says that this is the fatal flaw of American "federalism". In contrast, Bruce Ackermann says that this represents a crucial strength of Madison's political vision. See Ackermann, "Neo-federalism?", in Jon Elster and Rune Slagstad, eds., Constitutionalism and Democracy (Cambridge ENG:CUP, 1988):153-93. Ackermann makes a good argument for reading numbers 37-51 together. Garry Wills, Explaining, joins Ackermann in urging that papers 10 and 51 be read together, thus counterbalancing Robert Dahl's Preface, which accused Madison of serious contradiction.}_}

The Rossiter abridgment includes only two of these papers. Then in numbers 47-51, Madison reached the peak of his political theoretical powers. The Rossiter abridgment acknowledges the central importance of these five papers by including all but number 50.

From number 52 to the end, Madison and Hamilton traded off the task of describing and defending the three main branches of government proposed by the new constitution (the House of Representatives in numbers 52-56, Congress in general:57-61, Senate:62-66, the Presidency:67-77, and the Supreme Court:78-83). Madison handled Congress in general and the House in particular, devoting five papers to each. Jay (in number 64) joined Madison (numbers 62-63) and Hamilton (numbers 65-66) to produce the five papers on the Senate. In congruence with the previous sections, the Supreme Court got five papers, all written by Hamilton. It has not been lost on posterity that Hamilton devoted eleven papers to the Executive branch. Hamilton wrapped up the whole package with two remarkable papers (numbers 84-85). The Rossiter abridgment presents only six of these final 34 papers.


The Essential Madison

For Madison, democratic political virtue realized itself under extraordinary conditions of revolution or under daily conditions of individual, group or institutional invigoration within constitutional structures that also provided effective restraint. The Revolution was an accomplished reality. Now Madison's question was, how do we govern ourselves, counting on both effective mobilization of public energies ("invigoration") and modulation of them ("restraint"). The contradiction hinted in the two words "invigoration" and "restraint" brings us close to the heart of Madison's political thought.

{_{ For example, in number 37:226-28 [TXT], Madison described how difficult it was for the Philadelphia Convention to learn how to talk about the delicate combination of freedom and structure, how to achieve a proper "mingling" of "stability" and "energy" in government.}_}

Madison's thought is richly "dialectic". It vibrates on a strong but flexible foundation of political "antinomies". None are more important than "invigoration" and "restraint", or "freedom" and "unity". Carl Schmitt wrote about political antinomies (borrowing loosely from Madison's profound contemporary, Immanuel Kant). Schmitt's most persuasive explicator Gary Ulmen once referred to a Schmitt antinomy as an "antithesis".

{_{ Carl Schmitt, "The Constitutional Theory of Federation (1928)", with an introduction by Gary Ulmen, Telos 91 (1992 Spring):16-56. See page 16.}_}

In some Hegelian or Marxian sense an "antithesis" might be resolved by confrontation with a "thesis", moving right along toward some higher level of contradiction. But the Kantian "antinomy" is perpetual and unstable, never finally resolvable. It is in this more vexing Kantian sense that Madison's problem of faction can never be overcome. We must learn to live with it. We can only manage it. We must build political structures to accommodate it, to generate maximum benefit from it and minimize its dangers. And even then, it will erupt upon public order again and again. Unity and faction are therefore not thesis and antithesis to Madison. They represent an antinomy of political life, like Kant's antinomy of pure reason, "into which reason falls by itself, and inevitably".

{_{ Immanuel Kant, Transcendental Dialectic, book 2, chapter 2.}_}

The tension embedded in "invigoration" and "restraint" cannot be resolved. It is the perpetual antinomy of political mankind. Recognizing this leads Madison to one of his striking innovations in political theory = democracy works best when it extends over several communities. Direct, face-to-face democracy gains stability and longevity when put in the context of a large federation of many, widely dispersed communities. The local, hands-on democracy sends representatives to regional, state, and finally national governments. The principle of representation extends and stretches faction so that its most inflammable or explosive potential is neutralized and diluted. The very process of invigoration provides institutional restraint. And yet the fire of freedom would burn on. Fire must be hot, and if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. And we're not talking about the McDonalds hamburger grill here. Human energy must be liberated, but it must be governed. The only question is, who will govern it. Madison's revolutionary answer was, it must govern itself.

In papers 37-51, Madison performed a series of grand theoretical calisthenics which have possibly never been properly described or credited. Garry Wills, perhaps America's most creative political scholar-pundit, identified three main trends among those who seek to interpret Madison. First, Charles Beard and Vernon L. Parrington stand at the head of those who criticize Madison from a Marxist perspective. Harold Lasky represents the liberal and multilateral interpretation. And, finally, Robert Dahl represents the dominant interpretation of the past half century, one that lays stress on logical contradictions (as if Madison were a publishing assistant professor of Mathematics).

{_{ Garry Wills, Explaining America: The Federalist. Douglass Adair, "The Tenth Federalist..." was Wills' main source.}_}

My modest contribution to these interpretations might be summarized in this way. With all his quick reference to classical Greece and the European Enlightenment (e.g., Montesquieu), Madison did not look out or down from the lofty world of ideas to the lowly world of human action. He was rooted in the soil of daily actuality, real-life, the existential situ. Madison's legacy is not so much a basket of logical syllogisms as it is a tool chest of practical insight into how the everyday life of human interaction in the public sphere might best throw off the traditions of sanctified and blood-right authority, replacing these with self-regulation.

Garry Wills' book, Explaining America, strives to modulate Dahl's logical-positivist extremism, but fails us when it diverts its attention from the actual situation within which Madison acted, the evident anthropological and political circumstances he faced. Wills retreats to the Platonic realm of ideas relating to ideas, to the question of David Hume's influence on Madison's thought. Wills account is fascinating as always, but not really very political.

If we are allowed to bring Madison's number 10 into relationship with the deft theoretical moves in these later 15 essential papers, Madison's position may be summarized in the following way =

  1. Factions are inevitable; they are co-terminal with political life
  2. Any minority or majority of the people might be a faction
  3. States (subsidiary federal units) might be factions
  4. Any of the branches of central government might be a faction. Institutions as well as individuals and groups can function as factions
  5. The trick is to break and control the violence of faction without damaging freedom and democracy themselves (this is the center of what I would call "Madison's universal doctrine of factions")
  6. Put another way, any of these factions may act but none can be allowed "sovereignty" (what I would call "Madison's universal doctrine of checks and balances" or of "particularized sovereignty")
  7. "Checks and balances" between factions take precedence over "Separation of powers"
  8. The mechanisms of factional political interplay themselves are the only democratic way to control the mischief of faction (here we are at the center of Madison's concept of "virtue")
  9. The mechanisms must constantly be subjected to the discipline of the people via elections and other forms of democratic participation. But only on extraordinary revolutionary occasions should the whole people intervene directly into this institutional process


The Universal Doctrine of Factions

James Madison's doctrine of factions, so brilliantly expressed in Federalist No. 10 [TXT], is well known but not always understood in the context of the full political and institutional argument of The Federalist. The one human assembly exempted from the otherwise universal doctrine of faction is the whole people mobilized in time of revolution or for the cause of approving or amending their constitution. But other large, majoritarian movements among the people certainly should be considered factions and thus somehow brought under regulation. Here we must be clear that this word "regulation" is not the same as the word we use to describe processes under the authority of official "regulators". Madison searched for ways to incorporate regulation into the daily operations of the whole political system, what he meant by checks and balances.

For example, the large size of the new Union helped regulate factions of the majority. This represented a striking addition to the annals of political theory. Most assume that democracy is best protected in smaller, "face-to-face" political units, in the town-meeting tradition. Madison was confident of the salutary effects of an electoral and representational system, an institutional regulator itself, a device that works like an insulated conductor between the immediate passions and interests of factions and the political expression of them in a republican government. Representation provided a relatively reliable control over the problems of faction by

passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations [10:59].

Notice that Madison said "least likely", not "unlikely". Madison has taken a lot of heat for his notion of popular virtue, and unfairly. He did not believe for a minute that representatives would be possessed of any particular superior human virtues. He conceded at the beginning of number 10 that even defenders of democratic, representational forms of government find that excesses of "faction" are a most alarming danger.

The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished... [10:53-54].

The virtue of which Madison wrote was not an inherent quality of individuals, groups or institutions. Virtue was a quality of human behavior in specific experiential situations. We are forced to take stock of a most shocking implication. Madison placed little emphasis on what we usually call "rule of law" in favor of explicit mechanisms allowing an effective and just "rule of persons". Madison's formula here flies in the face of one of our culture's most cherished clichés.

Madison assaulted head-on the wide-spread assumption of "axiological uniformity" expressed by fellow author John Jay. Jay was a "law and order" establishmentarian who wrote in Federalist number 2 =

Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people -- a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manner and customs...."

Wasn't the motive for the new constitution precisely the fact that the excesses of faction were ripping apart "this one connected country"? Where are the slaves and the Native Americans in Jay's foolish declamation? There was something very forced, false and disingenuous in Jay's expression of revolutionary enthusiasm and his apparent naiveté about axiological uniformity. There is something very timeless in Madison's honest acknowledgment of factions, and his combined fear and optimism about the danger and promise of this evident, inescapable reality. Factions there will always be. Acknowledgment of that fact is a rare accomplishment. Think about Madison every time you hear the words "bi-partisanship" and "disinterested politics". But also think of him when you hear of "absolutist" and "centralized" or "one-party" political systems. Madison would advise us to look for factions even under Stalin and Hitler.

Madison didn't believe in, nor would he try to create in reality, what Jay celebrated in idealistic rhetoric. One may do two things about the problems caused by faction = either destroy the liberty which is essential to the existence of factions, or try to force everyone to behave as Jay described them, with the same opinions, same passions, and the same interests. Here’s what Madison said =

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 [10:55].

When actual people are at liberty to exercise their reason, different opinions will be formed. Human reason is shaped in different ways by a wide variety of individual interests and passions. The "faculties of men" are simply not uniform. They are diverse because life in all its complexity shapes us differently.

The rights of property originate in this fact, says Madison, and this fact furthermore makes it impossible to achieve a uniformity of interests in the population. Government should not try to make the "faculties of men" the same. On the contrary, the protection of these faculties is "the first object of government" [10:55]. Property is not the prime concept, it is but an example of the prime concept, namely, the diverse faculties of diverse human beings. Diversity, of which the distribution of property is one example, is what Madison asked government to protect. Factionalism seems fraught with danger, but it is natural to humanity. It is disorderly, dangerous but also promising. It is thus better than, say, its tranquil, suppressed or even deadened opposite. Here Madison quietly but firmly "dissed" John Jay and the whole orotund Fourth-of-July crowd. Set free, humans are dangerous, but they can regulate themselves in the proper institutional framework.


Interests and Rights

To unravel Madison's full meaning of faction, we must remain alert to his use of three other powerful words = "property", "interests" and "rights". The words are as powerful in our time as in the 18th century, but in the earlier time they were broader in meaning. Today, "property" has come to mean rather narrowly "something owned". "Interests" have come to mean "considerations of benefit with respect to what is owned". In other words, simple and utterly materialistic micro-economic meanings now attach to these two expressions. The long-term deterioration in the meaning of these political-economic concepts suggests that we should break free of the colloquial simplicities and restore our sense of Madison's powerful political/institutional ideas. Consider this John Locke paragraph on property. Property is life, liberty and possessions. Consider this brief discussion of Harold Lasswell on "interests". Interests, you see, include a whole range of "valuables". Madison tended to give "property" and "interests" their broad meanings. Consider how Madison's concept of property and interests infused his original proposals before Congress that led to the adoption of the USA "Bill of Rights", designed to give institutional protection to individual life, liberty and property. Look at proposal one and proposal four. His famous Federalist No. 10 had been every bit as fully informed by this broad "Lockean" sense of powers and enjoyments reserved to, "possessed" by, each individual.

And he understood that property and interests, however much they might be thought "natural" or "inalienable", were nonetheless the source of factional conflict. "But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society." He lists other common varieties of interests = creditors, debtors, farmers, industrialists, merchants, investors, "with many lesser interests" grow inevitably as civilization grows more complex, creating "different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views" [10:56, boldface added]. It is notable here that Madison identified "interests" as the source of "sentiments and views". And the natural evolution of classes of people had for him clear political implications. If different faculties are protected, "the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties" [10:55, boldface added].

Madison's words again remind us of Karl Marx. But Madison could never separate "life", "liberty", and "rights" from the purely material, possessive sense of "property" which was at the center of Marx's attention. Thus Madison could not attribute all human factionalism to material, possessive property. Factionalism derived from the full panoply of variation among people. One might argue that his greatest superiority over Marx's sense of "politics" is that Madison saw how power, all by itself and even independent of "ownership", was an "interest", and thus managerial power through governmental institutions (or other instruments of authority) was for Madison one of the factional extremes he sought to restrain. But here is the biggest difference = Marx thought factionalism would eventually disappear. He believed that the eras of factional class struggle represented a bellicose pre-history to truly human society. The proletarian revolution would bring an end to all that. Madison, in sharp contrast, was certain that the natural human inclination toward differentiation in "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" led inevitably toward factionalism. Factionalism could never, in fact should never, be squelched.

{_{ Sogrin,Founding:275 goes too far to deny any significant relationship between Madison's and Marx' concepts of class antagonism, but he is right on the mark, even though unnecessarily disapproving, when he says that Madison denied "the transient character of antagonistic social contradictions".}_}

Factionalism could be suffocated or throttled, like fire, but Madison held that this would be a great tragedy for liberty. For one thing, Madison understood that he who would seek to suppress faction would be, in this act, a faction unto himself. Marx believed in a final historical solution to the divisions in human society, and thus he predicted the end of politics. Madison did not. The end of politics (or of history) had no appeal to Madison; he accepted the eternal challenge of diversity, tension, conflict, competition; and the inevitability of politics in real-life public settings.

{_{ Here Madison's political-economy shows a congenial relationship to the ideas of Georg Simmel [ID] in Conflict and The Web of Group Affiliations.}_}

Madison would have scoffed at Cold War Kremlinologists who denied the existence of factions within Soviet "totalitarianism", but also our post-Cold War triumphalists and their perilous and pernicious ideas about the "new world order" and "the end of history". These supposed friends of democracy seem malicious children at the feet of (founding) father Madison.

Rehearsal of these familiar themes is necessary for more than one reason. Many assert that Madison sought to eliminate factions, that he feared factions and "the party spirit". It is true, he knew that without proper institutional constraint, factions could get out of hand. But factions and parties were an inevitable outcome of democratic politics. Their extinction should be "neither presumed nor desired". Their extinction "implies either a universal alarm for the public safety, or an absolute extinction of liberty" [50:335; not included in the Rossiter abridgment].

Thus most of the palaver about how Madison had no inkling of the rise of political parties in American democracy is seriously wrong. What he feared was that only one or two parties might work singly or in collusion to crush the multiple factions that represent full political life in any large and extensive republic. Dominance of one or two parties would naturally work to crush third or more parties.

{_{ In the emerging era of multiparty democracy in the USA, e.g., Nader-style Green Party activism, it is time to re-read Maurice Duverger's Political Parties: Their Organization and Activity in the Modern State (1959, a translation of the 1951 French original).}_}

Madison accepted faction and sought only to control excess, violence, the "rage of party".

The inference to which we are brought is, that the causes of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects [10:57].

Try this variation on the fiery Madisonian metaphor = Cooks love fire, but do not want themselves to be fried, nor do they want the kitchen to burn down.

Madison granted little hope that religious or moral restraint could, would, or should guarantee public order in any extended population. In number 10 he warned that "a religious sect may degenerate into a political faction", but assured that a "variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of [the nation] must secure the national councils against any danger from that source" [10:61-62]. Morality and religion were more nearly sources than cures of faction. They were disruptive rather than creative of public order. In short, religious factionalism was inevitable in a free polity, not to be deplored but accepted, perhaps even welcomed. But it could not be allowed to put its fist around the throat of the public at large. Madison was wary of the actually existing "axiological nomoi" of his time, and he doubted the practicality -- even the plausibility -- of their serving to unite an extended or complex social structure. Surely Madison would have applauded independent public activities of "faith-based" social organizations, just as he would have deplored attaching them to governmental projects that required but then could not benefit from the discipline of frequent exposure to public scrutiny and adjustment. Allowing churches a guiding role in the public sphere almost certainly would require the formula to work both ways, thus allowing the public a guiding role in the churches.


"Civil Society"

In the place of the unity some seek in unlikely and primitive concepts of uniformity, Madison and Hamilton both employed the phrase "civil society" [ID]. Madison associated the phrase "Civil Society" with the complexity of an extended population divided naturally into many "parties" or "factions" corralled in political-institutional structures strong enough to contain the disorderly energy of human give-and-take, but flexible enough not to damage the goods. Two very good examples appear in close sequence. Madison concluded Federalist number 51 with heavy emphasis on the role of justice in regulating the relationships between a "multiplicity of interests" and "multiplicity of sects". Such justice "is the end of civil society" [51:340]. In the opening words of Federalist No. 53, Madison (or Hamilton) referred to "all the variations which may be required by the various situations and circumstances of civil society" [53:347].

However problematic the term "civil society", it was the best Madison had to offer those of us who have fallen from the Garden of Eden but who would still rather not have some "axiological nomoi" imposed upon us. Civil society meant something like citizens in an invigorated but restrained condition of free interaction with one another, with their various "interests", and with their government. The purpose or goal of public life are not the same as private life. The purpose or goal of private individual life might very well be virtue or morality or ethics per se. But as fine as these may seem, they are not the goal of public life. The goal of public life is to ensure the safe flourishing of the contradictory, complex real-life of the human spirit as expressed in countless combinations of private individual lives motivated by countless combinations of moral or spiritual outlook. In politics, the game is the object of the game, politics for politics' sake. In a variation on an old Tocquevillian aphorism, he who seeks politics in the name of any other virtue is doomed to servitude. Someone once put it this way = Madison stood for the principles of politics rather than the politics of principle.

The task of government is to accommodate factions, not impose throttling uniformities. But factions are not merely an ineradicable nuisance. They are the natural and full expression of an extended, diverse, mature body politic, the appropriate arena within which the fullest sort of humanity might mature. How stunted the political discourse that accuses those who acknowledge factions of fomenting "class warfare". Suppression of the truth of factions is a serious threat to authentic democracy. Factions properly buffered by checked-and-balanced governmental institutions have a very positive influence on a population. They promote the maturation of a people into a self-assertive and self-regulative, democratic, political mankind. Factions can be denied or suppressed, creating a sort of infantile egalitarianism while undermining democracy.

{_{ Epstein, The Federalist, ch. 3. Some do not agree, e.g., Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision (Boston: Little, Brown, 1960):389-90.}_}

Without the apocalyptic or Utopian tones of Karl Marx, Madison also projected the development of a fully human history. Not a static, finished perfection, like some Peaceable Kingdom writ large, but a vital, feisty, even unstable or volatile, yet constantly re-balanced democratic polity. The realist (actualist?) Madison still dreamed of a vast polis within which citizens, not subjects, might be nurtured.



Vigorous state governments in federal relationship to one another must build structures that restrain the natural tendency toward factional strife. The task of government -- more generally put, the task or the essence of politics -- is to regulate, not eradicate, factions.

The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government [10:56].

Here Madison links the social issue with the institutional. This full-bodied sense of faction is essential to an understanding of the meaning of Madison's federalism, and a key to the more universal applicability of Madison's thought. By joining the social with the institutional meanings of faction, Madison bridges the 17th-18th centuries with our own.

Nowhere else in The Federalist do we find anything quite so genuinely "federalist" as in Madison's numbers 37-51, especially in the final five of that series.

{_{ One of the most influential and interesting historians of the constitutional era, Gordon Wood, has argued that Madison's main opposition, the anti-federalists, were the real federalists. This is a useful argument, but it is perhaps truer of Hamilton than of Madison that the federalists feared "good old American popular politics", especially the state legislatures and all forms of regional or provincial vitality, such as the freebooting entrepreneurial Western Pennsylvanian William Findley [W-ID]. Madison's political thought is badly distorted by Wood's formula = democracy was not the solution but was the problem. That may have been so for Hamilton, but not for Madison. For Madison, democracy was the problem and the solution in a good constitutional system. See Gordon S. Wood, "Interests and Disinterestedness in the Making of the Constitution", in Beeman, Beyond (1987):69-109.}_}

It is easy enough to equate the concept "faction" with "social class", but the term gains substance and dimension when number 10 is read with numbers 37-51. The intellectual, political and institutional dimensions of the concept are joined with the social. Political faction cannot be understood except in intimate relationship to political sovereignty.

{_{ How close Vladimir Sogrin, a Soviet historian of America, came to seeing this point. He repeated the elementary Beard-Parrington analysis of the class basis of US constitutional theory. Madison et al. feared the democratic challenge to their elite, plantation-based status. Their fear of faction was a fear of those without property. Within two or three paragraphs, however, Sogrin observed that institutional factionalism was more important than social factionalism on the pages of The Federalist. Perhaps because he was a product of the great Russian statist tradition, Sogrin saw clearly that "interstate rivalry" or "variances", rather than class warfare, were the factional disorder at the center of these papers [Founding:268].}_}

Madison was careful to refute those who feared the new constitution would undermine state sovereignty and create a leviathan. Hamilton leaned toward a powerful national government; here Madison leaned slightly in the other direction, toward an efficient and effective union of states. In papers 37-46, Madison argued against "absolute sovereignty" in the states [44:296] and in favor of states retaining a "portion" of their sovereignty [45:298], "a residuary and inviolable sovereignty" [39:249]. Deftly threading his way among several political paradoxes, dilemmas or antinomies, Madison addressed the problem of how to guarantee "states rights" in their relationship with a strong national government.

Madison elaborated a concept of distributive sovereignty or what needs to be labeled with a neologism = particularized sovereignty. The meaning is close to that Montesquieu concept of répartition de la souveraineté, but it goes well beyond the range of Montesquieu's thinking. Madison did not think that there were several sovereignties, devolved or delinked from some singular and centralized statist actuality. His sovereignty was one thing, the sovereignty of the people. This singular sovereignty however had to be broadly distributed over the full body politic, it had to be parceled or partitioned or distributed over all political institutions, governing regions, and citizens. Where else do we find such an idea? I think we find it no where but in Madison, thus the need for the neologism "particularized sovereignty".

Sovereignty found its matrix in the whole people organized as a citizenry, i.e., organized politically rather than considered en masse. The sovereignty of the people, therefore, was "partially" expressed in -- or distributed among -- the several "representations" of the whole citizenry = as individuals, as state governments, and as a federal government.

{_{ Here we locate the central distinction between Schmitt's and Madison's constitutional ideas. Schmitt deplored the equation of state power with public power. In his view, one of the weaknesses of liberal political ideology was that it made a state just another social power "that at best stands at the same level as, never above, other organizations" [Rune Slagstad, "Liberal Constitutionalism and Its Critics: Carl Schmitt and Max Weber", in Elster, Constitutionalism (1988):113]. Furthermore Madison's doctrine of factions gave no place for anything like Schmitt's "decisionism", based as it was on the absolutist concept of "friends and enemies" and the ultimate statist value of Ordnung (which we might think of as restraint without invigoration) [Ibid:118].}_}

In a proper democratic republic, organized on federalist principles, individual freedoms are protected and the sovereignty of the states is not so much diminished as it is augmented by the sovereignty added to the top of the structure, at the level of federal Union. In Madison's version of the new constitutional structure, the states were to the general federal authority as the three branches of the federal government were to one another. Like nowhere else, these papers established the essential role of attenuated state sovereignty in the larger scheme of separation of powers, checks and balances, and the accommodation of faction.


Checks and Balances

Both Hamilton and Madison could be harsh with opponents and decisive in rejecting their views, so it is a noteworthy moment [47:312-13] when Madison expressed his respect for the argument that the new constitution does not appear to provide traditional guarantees of "separation of powers". Madison would not refute this charge. Instead he questioned this venerable maxim of republican political theory and suggested that separation of powers was by itself not a practicable principle. While the distinct competencies of all branches of a good state structure should be clearly spelled out, the principle of separation of powers should be subordinated to the more important general principle of checks and balances. In other words, the various components of a self-correcting, democratic, representational republic should not be strictly separated in their powers but should be carefully blended so as to be able to "check" and "balance" one another in their respective spheres of competence.

{_{ This argument is made most clear in number 48, which is in the Rossiter abridgment. But the full body of the argument requires numbers 17, 31, and 32, especially 31:192-3, none of which make it into the Rossiter abridgment.}_}

Madison accommodated these political antinomies within what he called a "compound republic" [51:339]. The distinctness of Madison's contribution to political thought is most clearly silhouetted against the standard notions of "separation of powers" popularized by Montesquieu. Madison subordinated "separation of powers" to "checks and balances". "Separation of powers" in its standard form implied more independence (or sovereignty) than a well organized federation could tolerate. If the principle of "checks and balances" is cast over the whole social-political structure, then the sovereignty of each component is, in some defined way, dependent on the others.

In numbers 47-51, Madison said that a cunning separation of powers, modified by defined but thoroughgoing checks and balances, creates an institutional and self-regulating thermostat on the forces of faction, just as at the same time it protects the factions from themselves. Freedom and diversity creates faction; free and diverse institutions further promote faction, can even become factions themselves, but representative government in a federal structure with checks and balances in an extended nation neutralizes, channels, and regulates factions. Freedom causes the problem; freedom solves it.

Rarely should the whole citizenry, as such, be called upon to act en masse. The ultimate act of revolution was one example of such a moment. Less dramatic, but equally fundamental, was the moment of creating or amending the constitution. The sovereignty of the people is transcendent. But one cannot turn to the people as a whole constantly to mediate between the states and the central government, nor to provide checks and balances among the three branches of the federal government, and certain not to tend to the daily affairs of state. The people as the ultimate sovereign power must be able to renew their revolutionary right to shape their constitution, but this should not be confused with the daily tasks of government; "a constitutional road to the decision of the people ought to be marked out and kept open, for certain great and extraordinary occasions" [49:328].

{_{ The distinction between extraordinary or revolutionary politics and "normal" politics is a central component of the argument in Ackermann, "Neo-federalism?".}_}

Madison asserted the oxymoronic but essential claim of revolutionary legitimacy for the new constitution and for the unexpected direct appeal to the people (rather than to the state legislators) for its ratification. This was just such an extraordinary occasion in which the whole people had to be asked to intervene [40:257-9].



Madison's revolutionary political thought may flatter "citizens", but it does not presume that the democratic republic depends on an aloof governing elite, mandarins or an intelligentsia possessed with some superior, pre-political "virtue".

{_{ Lance Banning, "Some Second Thoughts on Virtue and the Course of Revolutionary Thinking", in Ball, Conceptual (1988):194-212.}_}

Madison's citizens would be alert to their personal interests, but at the same time they would be active in the promotion of larger community interests, and they worked to make sure that individual and community interests were kept in optimum harmony with one another. The larger mission too was in their "interests". And they did this not because they were "angels" but because the institutional mechanisms of the federal republic channeled them in this direction. In Federalist No. 51 Madison put it this way =

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary [51:337].

Madison's "virtue" did not imply a "sacrifice" of personal interests but vigorous and vigilant maintenance of the "rules of the game" and, so to speak, constant grounds-keeping on the playing field. The opposite of this virtue then is "luxury", sloth, self-indulgence, either of the rich or the dispossessed, the privileged or the poor, it makes no difference. Sound basis for a diverse and democratic polity might be found only in the instruments themselves through which factions function. The solution to the problem of faction and public virtue was, in other words, political and institutional. The institutions which promoted factionalism had, at the same time, to regulate their interrelationships. Politics had to solve the problems of politics, and to create the circumstances under which political virtue itself could exist.

{_{ J. G. A. Pocock returned to the theme of republican virtue which he earlier made an important part of his influential The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (1975). He now urged that this virtue "was invariably regarded as ambiguous and fragile, dynamic and problematic, and will probably continue to be so regarded until Western man gives up the belief that he/she is naturally a political animal. The belief is constantly being assailed and is very hard to kill" ["States, Republics, and Empire: The American Founding in Early Modern Perspective", in Ball, Conceptual (1988):65].}_}

Madisonian virtue was indeed European Renaissance virtu, a situational phenomenon, an existential phenomenon. It thus also could be related to samurai Zen Buddhist virtue, except that Madison's world did not include any knowledge of that. It did not yet include much knowledge of the wider world at all. What he had was a revolutionary knowledge of actual life, local and specific but capable of generalization, occasionally reinforced by reference to earlier generations of political thought. Democratic virtue grew out of the democratic experience. It was not rooted in dubious abstract sources like "Western Civ" or English common law. Americans often forget that the Fourth of July is the anniversary of a revolution against the Old World, specifically the English and their oppressive traditions. The useful and liberating traditions might not be thrown out with the bath, but the bath was thrown out. Madison's virtue was still nurtured by aspects of his received traditions, but only in so far as they could be transformed and actualized in a revolutionary New World.

This is why I say that no one is "ready" for democracy. Yet we might say that every human culture is "capable" of democracy or its opposite. Among any and all human cultures democracy may flourish or rot in the arena of actual behavior. Under brief revolutionary circumstances or over a longer duration, channeling itself through proper institutions, democracy rises and falls. Public virtue expresses itself. Madison's virtue validated revolution but also validated permanent political institutions, i.e., those very institutions assaulted by the rabid anti-governmental movement of the late 20th and early 21st century in America. Both "invisible hand" and "government off our backs" are expressions of utopian anarchism from the Madisonian point of view. Democratic virtue demanded that the hand be perfectly visible and capable of burdening the back of any faction that sought to go too far.

{_{ On "invisible hand", cf. SAC.}_}

The game is the object of the game, and the playing of it is itself the source of political virtue. No one is simply ready for democracy, yet anyone can become democratic through the exercise of democratic practices.


Some Concluding Thoughts about the Legacy of James Madison

If we are inclined to assume that democracy and all the good things we think of as progress have been "natural" to "us", to us Americans, or Anglo-Saxons, or to that vague, deceptive place called "The West", then democracy is "foreign" to other people. It is thus alien, difficult and unlikely among them. Democracy is natural and effortless for "people like us", but other peoples are either "not ready for self rule" or may be made so only with our direct involvement. "Backwardness" beckons to those who are "advanced", begging for help forward. But one thing we should have learned by now. Democracy cannot be an export product. I suspect that "expert advisers" on democracy, sent to distant ports, have a pretty poor track record, especially when they are but "embedded" elements of a military assault. Yet examples of democratic action in one place can inspire in another, just as examples of democratic inaction or failure can induce cynicism. To promote the spread of democracy, it is best simply to be democratic, to "give  witness" to democracy (borrowing from the American radical Protestant tradition with that phrase "give witness").

The concept of "backwardness", contrasted with an implicit or explicit virtue, is not a democratic concept. It is essential to an imperialist mind-set.

{_{ About two-thirds of the way through its first chapter, that justifiably most famous hymn to freedom, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty (1859), hit the following sour notes. As the spiral of praise for freedom mounted, Mill observed that it was perhaps hardly necessary to say that the praise of liberty applied only to "human beings in the maturity of their faculties", not to children or the functionally impaired. Mills continued =

For the same reason, we may leave out of consideration those backward states of society in which the race itself may be considered as in its nonage. The early difficulties in the way of spontaneous progress are so great, that there is seldom any choice of means for overcoming them; and a ruler full of the spirit of improvement is warranted in the use of any expedients that will attain an end, perhaps otherwise unattainable. Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end [boldface added].
A supporter of Boris Yeltsin's presidential power expressed much the same willingness to subordinate freedom to "reform" and to grant to despotic authority the right to do what it wishes for the good of progress. Petr Barenboim, scholarly specialist on separation of power, argued that Russians "are in a transitional period when reforms cannot be advanced without a strong executive branch" [1993my21:MNe,21:1-2]. }_}

It was this mind-set that allowed Americans to defend the disenfranchisement of blacks for decades after the abolition of slavery, just as it had justified slavery in the years before. Certain people, it is asserted, are not ready for self-rule or democracy. Freedom for such people takes the inevitable form of submission to those who are advanced of them.

Revolutionary democracy has been an extreme and shocking development everywhere it has appeared on the scene. The creation of the US constitutional system, 1776-1792, was not an organic, harmonious, easy experience, a natural legacy of the Anglo-Saxon heritage, or more grandly the Judeo-Christian or (in NATO terms) "Western" heritage. Some are content to mask the tensions and the occasionally brutal struggles that raged, and still rage, in the American Republic. Insistence on the "naturalness" of democracy might have as its main result the weakening of democratic resolve. Many prefer to dodge or gloss over unresolved "antinomies" expressed in the very nature of a representational, democratic and federal republic. They would avoid the broil of politics in favor of an ordered, consensual rule of established elites. For those who think like this, virtue is decorum.

{_{ This is one of the themes that threads through Richard Beeman, et al., eds., Beyond Confederation: Origins of the Constitution and American National Identity (1987). See, for example, Jack N. Rakove, "The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George Washington" (pp. 261-94) and Lance Banning, "The Practicable Sphere of a Republic: James Madison, the Constitutional Convention, and the Emergence of Revolutionary Federalism" (pp. 183-5).}_}

Accent on the ordered, consensual rule of established elites requires a citizenship or electorate ready to swap active involvement in the public realm for the more passive delights of consumerism, as in the WSJ account of the customers at MacDonalds during August, 1991, Coup attempt in Moscow. As in the time of Madison, so also in ours. If the federalist constitution was difficult to achieve, it is no less difficult to maintain, or restore. Madison has lessons for Russians and for Americas.

Neither military force, morality, nor religion acted as guarantees against the depredations of faction; they were more nearly causes. Nor was the wisdom of elected officials or tradition any guarantee. Madison's marvelous insight or assertion -- an historical milestone really -- was this = A political system for ordinary, democratic folk, people as they actually are -- not as they ought to be, or might ideally become, or might be forced to become -- must regulate itself. I cannot personally see any sense in the frequent emphasis placed on "elites" in the secondary literature on Madison. In Federalist No. 49 he wrote, "the people are the only legitimate fountain of power" [49:327]. Some are property owners, others not, some bankers, some debtors, some farmers, some merchants, yet others manufacturers, and so forth. But they will be just what they are, actual people. And Madison thought he had discovered political mechanisms that would allow them to be themselves and still maintain a "web of group affiliations" [ID] in political or public association with those who were different. This is still a very radical democratic notion more than two centuries after it was spelled out.

Neither Russian history nor, for that matter, US history is able to guarantee that any particular portion of the electorate is "ready for democracy". In just this regard, The Federalist is of great relevance and use. Republican "virtue" was at the center of Madison's political thought. Madison's concept of virtue was transformed in the experience of revolution. The most remarkable instance of growth was his original opposition to a Bill or Rights and his eventual support of one. He was in fact the main author of these first amendments to the US Constitution. He finally saw the need to spell out the degree of particularized sovereignty that had to be reserved to individuals, just as the constitution addressed those powers reserved to the states.

The concept of virtue as forged in the experience of revolution and constitution making was a new thing, not simply the product of a received tradition or a social system of deference. His virtue resulted from the revolutionary exercise of active, universal, democratic citizenship. This sort of virtue was less the product of complex historical tradition than it was of democratic, revolutionary political activism itself. Madison's virtue does not pre-exist or enable or guarantee democracy but is more accurately the product of democracy. John Adams expressed it this way = "Virtues have been the effect of the well ordered constitution rather than the cause."

{_{ Lance Banning, "Some Second Thoughts on Virtue and the Course of Revolutionary Thinking", in Terence Ball and J. G. A. Pocock, eds., Conceptual Change and the Constitution (Lawrence KS:1988):205. Victor Zaslavsky does well to quote Giuseppe Di Palma, To Craft Democracies: An Essay on Democratic Transitions (Berkeley:UCP,1990): "democracies can be made (or unmade) in the act of making them" [Telos,96:47].}_}

Those who might be described most accurately as "ready for democracy" are those individuals and groups who actually mobilize themselves to public action in a revolutionary (i.e., unprecedented and extraordinary) situation or on a daily basis within institutional frameworks able and willing to accommodate their behavior. But oddly even here, by implication, democratic action and institutions precede readiness for them.

Maybe this is what Elena Bonner had in mind during the 1991 coup when she challenged her fellow Moscovites to show whether there were "worthy of the name of residents of the capital and the state, or we are simply a mob that is interested only in sausage." Possibly she also had in mind those jeans-clad diners down the street huddled in McDonalds.

{_{ New York Times (1991 August 20).}_}

Some Bibliography

*2017ja10:Novaia gazeta| "Автократ и его гибрид. Политологи поспорили, может ли из российских институтов вырасти демократия? Почему это интересно" [E-TXT]