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Friday, February 19, 2010

Madison in the News

James Madison is much in the news. Peter Wehner writes:
The dominant narrative manifests a particular cast of mind, one that equates "the people's business" with passing legislation that increases the size, cost, and reach of government. In fact, sometimes the people's business involves stopping bad ideas from becoming law.

It's worth recalling that the Founders set up a system of government with what James Madison called the "auxiliary precautions" of American government -- meaning the separation of powers, bicameralism, and other checks and balances. Madison, who was shipped what he called a "literary cargo" of books on history and politics by Thomas Jefferson, rigorously studied the historical record of past governments. Out of that study Madison and his colleagues decided to put the emphasis on braking mechanisms, which they thought would help preserve liberty by limiting the power of government.
All these assessments were made against the backdrop of health-care reform’s presumed inevitability. Once it faltered, James Madison’s handiwork supposedly collapsed in a pitiful heap. Of course, the Madisonian system is explicitly meant to frustrate an inflamed legislative majority bent on passing sweeping social legislation for which there’s limited popular support.
At FiveThirtyEight, Tom Schaller says:
For starters, there is far more moderation, not to mention comity, on display in the U.S. Senate than almost anywhere else in American legislative politics. James Madison’s epic Federalist #10 is always remembered for the first half of his two-part argument for the republican form, but most forget the second, corollary half: That as one increases the population size of a representative district there is a greater tendency to elect persons of greater moderation, in both disposition and ideology. Yes, as I pointed out recently the number of states with same-party senators is very high. But there are still some split-party Senate delegations, including Bayh’s Indiana (at least for the moment). If there’s a legislative institution in the country where moderation has it best chance, it’s the one with six-year terms and non-gerrymandered “districts” that include millions and in some cases tens of millions of constituents.