Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Case For The Constitution: Federalist One

      As the State of the Union wraps up, it seems very appropriate that I start my series on one of the greatest works of American Political Theory: The Federalist Papers. Written by James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton, they mapped out why the Constitution was so important to the newly independent colonies. Federalist One - written by Alexander Hamilton - is an excellent opener to this series, as well as one which gives us great advice in todays political climate.

      Hamilton starts by asking whether or not mankind can craft a form of government themselves, or if they are dependent upon accident and force. Can man, being imperfect beings, develop a system of government that will lead to a perfect society? This is a question that has puzzled philosophers for years, and has been the driving force behind such thinkers as Hegel and Marx. Hamilton seems to agree that mankind CAN craft a legitimate form of government and that they are not dependent upon the time in which they exist.

     Further into the document, Hamilton gives us present day Americans a good piece of advice; one which we should take. He warns us that those who cry "for the people, for the people" are historically those who turn against the people and become tyrants in the end. For these sly politicians use the people as a stepping stone to gain notoriety and prestige, then when the time is right, the swoop in and go for the kill. Thus, Hamilton warns us to watch out for these type of people, for those who are concerned only about the "people", actually have no concern about the legitimacy of our form of government - for though our government is by and for the people - it also is constrained by the rule of law. This topic I have dealt with before, when discussing the judicial situation in Iowa.

     Hamilton closes his first paper on the Constitution with a reminder that passion - though good - should not be used in the place of reason. For Hamilton, passion blinds us to the facts and instills in us a bias that is very hard to overcome. I took this to heart, for I have recognized the need to train myself in logically going through an issue, rather than resorting to logical fallacies and incomplete information.

     So to my readers, I will leave you with the following two questions - which you can comment on in the comment section.

1. Is mankind able to produce a legitimate form of government, or because of our nature, will we naturally form a flawed one?
2. How have we seen passion triumph over logic in political debates in this country? How have we seen those who advocate "for the people", to actually have ulterior motives?

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