Wednesday, July 17, 2013

James Madison on gov't power

Charles Pierce posts a quote from James Madison every night because James Madison is pretty awesome and should be read every day. So thanks to the also awesome Charles Pierce for that. The post from last night from Federalist 46 discussing concerns about federal and state power was interesting:

The federal and State governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes. The adversaries of the Constitution seem to have lost sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this subject; and to have viewed these different establishments, not only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error. They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the other. Truth, no less than decency, requires that the event in every case should be supposed to depend on the sentiments and sanction of their common constituents.

Basically, he's say that it's the voters' job to limit or expand the power of their state and federal gov't as they see fit. If people don't like the way things are going, get off your ass and do something about it. Of course, I realize that collective action problem there. So few people vote and stay involved in the political process that it's difficult to make any change. And many of those involved have much more power than us. But that's the challenge democracy and the founders gave us. Elected officials can and will make crappy decisions. It's up to the people to decide if they are going to live with it or not.

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