Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Virtue of the Filibuster

In The Federalist No. 10, James Madison wrote:


By a faction I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.


Factions, in Madison's view, are to be avoided--and to be stymied from taking the unchallenged control they desire.
In fact, Madison argues that  protection against domination of the whole by a faction "is the first object of Government."


He went on to write that, in a well-constituted republic:


The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other states: a religious sect, may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it, must secure the national Councils against any danger from that source: a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wiched project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union, than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.


The filibuster has been one part of what has been, to some extent at least, a republic whose checks and balances keep it from falling away from the vision of its founders.  That is, we've enough protection against the tyranny of factionalism to keep us from descending into fascism or totalitarianism.  Or, we have had.


Let the filibuster go, and we are taking a step down a very dangerous path--one our founding fathers warned us against.

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