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Monday, December 10, 2012

Another Fake Quotation

In Rules for Radicals (p. 54 of Vintage edition), Saul Alinsky wrote:
In all the reasoning found in The Federalist Papers, no point is so central and agreed upon as "Rich and poor alike are prone to act upon impulse rather than pure reason and to narrow conceptions of self-interest . . ." To question the force of self-interest that pervades all areas of political life is to refuse to see man as he is, to see him only as we would like him to be.
Search the Federalist Papers.  There is no such passage. Alinsky either made it up or mistook his own paraphrase for a direct quotation.

It is true that Madison emphasized the importance of interest as a political motive.  From Federalist 10:

  • As  long as the connection subsists between his reason and his  self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal  influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which  the latter will attach themselves. 
  • 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.
But Madison thought that there was much more to human nature.  From Federalist 55:
As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.