Friday, February 24, 2012

Madison s Contradiction: If men were Angels, no government wouldbe necessary....

In a well know passage of Federalist 51, Madison wrote, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

Yet this reasoning seems inconsistent unless one presumes there are two wholly different kinds of persons, one kind that is responsible & may be trusted, and a kind that cannot be so
trusted to be responsible for itself.

For, if there is only one kind of person, and if the State is necessary to control the people, because 'the people' cannot be trusted to control themselves, and if, sufficient power [means to violence] is surrendered (by the people), in order to make that control possible, then it is necessary for such a person, accepting these first two conditionals, to trust the very same kind of person, in their capacity as agents of the State, now embued with the means of incontestable power, to control themselves.

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