The Federalist Papers and the Control of Bureaucratic Centralization
Paragon House has made available a new edition of the Federalist Papers designed for e-book readers. Rereading them might be a good place to start in understanding how to rein in the out-of-control growth of U.S. governments.
The Federalist Papers were written over 200 years ago as an argument for New York State to ratify the U.S. Constitution. They contain an understanding of human nature, political power, and core principles often ignored by today’s political leaders, courts, schools, and the media. This ignorance has led to the breakdown of our political systems and to an unchecked growth of government. The application of these principles to our current governments can unleash the freedom, human energy, optimism, and economic productivity, necessary to provide a foundation for peace.
Yet, despite their importance, few Americans have read this classic document. Its 18th-century style, as written by three lawyers, is unnatural for contemporary readers. This new edited version—using the authors’ original words and enhanced with outlines, subheadings, bullet points, and hyperlinks—removes these obstacles and brings forth the argument, making the Federalist Papers easy-to-use and understand in the age of the Kindle, Nook, and I-Pad.
In Federalist 62, James Madison explains that the role of the founders was (1) to understand the purpose of government (the happiness of the people) and, (2) the best way to achieve it. In Federalist 10 he warns against the pooling of money together, creating factions, that will have more influence over the laws and the government than the voters. The U.S. Constitution was developed to prevent such factions from controlling the system and taking it out of the hands of the people. However, this is exactly what corporate lobbies, the Republican and Democratic Parties, labor unions and other special interests are–factions with more influence than voters.
An understanding of the principles behind the Constitution that come through the Federalist Papers is important for understanding the Founders’ intent, so that those principles—not politicization of the words in the Constitution—can be applied to controlling government corruption and centralization of power today.
In the aggregate, academic writers and jurists have cited the Federalist Papers as evidence of the original meaning of the Constitution more than any other historical source except the text of the Constitution itself.—Gregory E. Maggs, George Washington University Law School, in Boston University Law Review, 87.
Today the U.S. Constitution and the rationale provided for it in the Federalist Papers can be seen as the first initially successful attempt to control large-scale bureaucratic social institutions. While the U.S. Constitution was designed to control a federal state, the principles the founders employed (e.g. subsidiarity, voluntary association, checks and balances) to eliminate conflicts of interest, can be profitably applied to impersonal bureaucracies in the economic and cultural spheres (e.g., banks, corporations, religions, and schools) as well. Indeed a bank “to big to fail” has much in common with a centralized government.
Human beings, regardless of which sphere of society in which they are employed, have the same basic nature and impulses. The founders knew that the behavior of a free people would be inspired by the pursuit of happiness as guided by religion and restrained by the rule of law.
Today’s major mistake is to believe that the social institutions that we have created, including the U.S. government, can provide the positive impulses and economic sustenance required for life. “Obamacare” is a symptom of this common self-deception, and a sign of a failing U.S. federal state. In reality, nearly all social institutions are designed by people who understand their purpose–like Madison did the U.S. Constitution. But inevitably, the people who are employed by and live under such created institutions view them as job-providers and vehicles for personal sustenance and wealth. While a Catholic priest who voluntarily sets up a hospital will put the patient first, a later bureaucrat running the hospital will seek to get a pay raise each year and ration the health care with the money left over after the staff is cared for.
Thus, in a bureaucratic society, the general populace becomes dependent on the government and other impersonal institutions like corporations. Those in governments, beginning a generation after the Founders–even the President and Supreme Court justices–tend to psychologically behave as dependents–just workers with jobs. Worse, today’s factions, our two political parties, ensure that the institutions our officials are elected to govern are steered to serve the goal of these controlling factions rather than their original purpose of guaranteeing the freedom and happiness of the citizens.
Excessive centralization and bureaucracy leads to the elimination of leaders and the creation of a society of dependents. In addition, the current methods of funding the Democratic and Republican parties cause those they endorse to be servants of the largest financial contributors–corporations, unions, and other special interests. Thus, we are left with a society in which those in the position of leaders are no more capable of governing than the boys in Lord of the Flies. No one who occupies an office is really in a position to guide the ship.
The U.S. Founders knew about these tendencies living under the system of government at the time of King George III, but their society was much less complex in those days. They pointed us well in the direction necessary to escape the “oppression of taxation without representation.” But today, we once again have a system in which taxation without real representation exists, as special interests control taxation and have bought the ears and policies of the legislators and politicians.
Max Weber, the great analyst of bureaucracy, understood that a bureaucratic Leviathan would eventually be the downfall of the communist system of government in Russia. Today President Obama appears to have lost control of the U.S. bureaucracy, indeed blind to its inherent dangers, and may go down in history as a President who, like Leonid Brezhnev, who failed to control the bureaucratic expansion in Russia that was largely responsible for its collapse.
An example of the application of principles in the Constitution to the financial sector was the Glass-Steagall Act (1933) which limited the ability of banks to speculate with the wealth citizens had placed in their hands. It did this by separating the banking and securities industries. It is a separation of powers comparable to the separation of the lawmakers from those who enforce the law. “Executive orders” and legislation by the courts can be compared to a violation of the principle of eliminating conflicts of interest, for the role of president and courts were created to enforce laws, not make them. When a person or entity can both make and enforce a law, he has absolute power and becomes a tyrant. The same is true of a bank, when instead of living off the interest margin between savings accounts and loans, suddenly treats the money held in trust as a personal or corporate property that can be gambled.
This blog and my book Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0, has devoted significant space to the ignorance of human nature and bureaucracy, and many conflicts of interest that need to be eliminated like viruses in a computer operating system in order to restore social health and prosperity. Such knowledge should especially be taught in the public schools. The absence of learning the political lessons necessary for responsible voting and citizenship provided in documents like Washington’s Farewell Address, and the Federalist Papers, is a symptom of the failure of public schools teach principles as important to voting as addition is to bookkeeping.
” … the failure of public schools teach principles as important to voting as addition is to bookkeeping.”
With recent financial crisis on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, there’s evidence to argue that the relationship of arithmetic’s to bookkeeping and public accounting has been deconstructed to the point that the relationship cannot be explained even before a Congressional hearing. In other words, accounting equations don’t add up into real numbers. The reason for the imbalance is self-deception, corporate malfeasance, and the failure of fiduciary duties by elected representatives. An unsuspecting and an economically naive electorate has been willingly duped by public school academicians, corrupt financiers and career politicians.
Our Constitutional system of checks and balances has skid off road and rushed headlong into a swampy ravine. We are stuck in the muck. I doubt that the Federalist papers-driving manual will be much help in this critical off the road situation. A new driver can not get behind the steering wheel then read the Federalist manual and back this vehicle out of the mud; we’re in too deep.
We are on course of having to deal with a tragedy. Often the initial reaction to tragic news is immediate denial; followed by confusion and anger. After a period of questioning and rationalization then a sense of reality sets in. Sometimes the reality is a deep feeling of emptiness, loss and depression. It is a process of grieving. I think large portions of the American people fall into these categories of dealing with tragedy. The wealthy and the power elites are still in denial locked into a false sense of entitlement and privilege. The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movement backlash reactions that represent anger. To a large degree people are feeling powerless and saddened by the current state of national affairs. Our nation is in need of grief counseling and having to face a different kind of future. It is looking for new leadership while having to suffer the task of letting go of the old attachments and unfulfilled expectations. It is a healing task that will take many years.