The nation has never been so divided.

Well, not in the last 20 years anyway.

I mean come on. Divisions in the 90s were so deep that a President was brought to trial before the full Congress for lying about receiving oral sex. In the 60’s & 70’s there were semi regular riots over desegregation in schools and even the Democratic National Convention had one in 1968. And the pattern continues all the way back to the beginning of self government.

Here is the thing. People don’t agree on things. People especially don’t agree when it comes to who pays for what and which one gets each benefit of that payment. Human nature is more than a little self serving, and our particular form of government runs on that very concept.

You see, while looking for a better way for men to govern themselves, the framers of our Constitution stumbled into a brilliantly balanced oppositional system for running the country.

Part of it was by design. Madison had studied law extensively and was certainly well versed in the concept of arguments being presented from opposing viewpoints until the truth was squeezed out of them…or at least as much truth as could be had from that particular argument.

He had also spent the time leading up to the Constitutional Convention studying different forms of government back into antiquity, and discussing them in depth with the other scholars of the time… most notably Thomas Jefferson who was likely the best read scholar of the republican form of government during the period…and certainly the best read on the subject this side of the Atlantic (even though at the time he was on the other side of it).

In those studies, one of the most important concepts Madison gleaned…and the reason direct democracy always degrades into totalitarian regimes, was the idea of the tyranny of the majority. Without attempting to give a full treatise on what that means, the simplest way to explain it is three wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. The majority will always oppress the minority when given the opportunity.

So he looked to republican systems to find a way to maximize mans self rule, while preventing any majority from ever having enough power to become oppressive.

What gets interesting when you read on him and his ideas is that he ran into another problem in that solution. The prevailing thought at the time was that because republics seemed to collapse under their own weight as they grew too large (ie Greece and Rome), it was commonly believed that a republic could only successfully function in a small setting.

Madison theorized that those republics collapsed more because they governed without the consent of the governed, and that there was not a balance of power. Further he stated over and over that he believed that a republic would actually run better as it grew (due to more and more small oppositional groups) IF there were a way for the various interest groups to check each other on a level playing field. His original draft of the constitution (and the one we ended up with) was designed to create that level field.

I could easily spend another 2000 words here going in depth into the original ideas he came to the Constitutional Convention with, but I will leave it with it was a very different outcome than he had planned. Between Hamilton’s also strong voice and the petty bickering between the South and North, the small and large states, and people who wanted purely federal system and those who wanted a very loose confederation, a lot of compromises were reached.

Ironically, by losing most of the things he wanted put into the Constitution, an intricately balanced system was created and at the same time his theory that a government based on many varied interests debating in an adversarial system could produce a national government that provided the maximum freedom for the individual while providing for the common goals of a young nation.

But I have digressed quite a bit in forming the background for the point of this article.

That point is: All the bickering about how we run this country isn’t new, and it is a good thing.

It is part of the design… and the system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do as we move forward. (Well some things could function better but that has a lot to do with bad tinkering with a working system, ex. direct voting for Senators… but that is another blog.)

Also, while I would call for more civility in these debates and discussions…. keep in mind when you think things are getting too crazy. Once upon a time a sitting vice President dueled and killed a political rival. People are still being pretty nice right now.

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About Robb

A husband, Dad to 5, and Grandpa to 9. US Navy Vet. 18 Year Postal Employee turned full time Realtor. I enjoy a wide variety of things, but you will find that here I mostly write about Indianapolis, government/politics, recent news, and whatever book I am reading or have just finished at the moment.
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