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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Egypt and the Federalist

Democracy and liberty are not identical. In Federalist 10, Madison wrote:

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, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community ... If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed.

To prevent tyranny, the Framers devised a system of federalism, bicameralism, and separated powers.

Egypt now faces the challenge of reconciling liberty and democracy, because the prospect of majority faction is very real. A 2010 Pew Research Center survey found the following percentage of Egyptian Muslims in support of:

  • Requiring segregation of men and women in the workplace: 54%
  • Whipping or cutting off the hands of thieves and robbers: 77%
  • Stoning adulterers: 82%
  • Executing those who leave the Muslim religion: 84%