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Mr. Ulmschneider's Forums > AP Government: Madison, Paine, and Politics


posted Dec 17, 2012 04:42:05 by LellaWake
I found it interesting that the Madison Problem is only a problem because we attempt to apply his ideas to our own times before understanding them in the context of his time. While Madison started off as "the fervent nationalist who feared the states and their vicious tyrannical majorities," he progressed to "the strict constructionist... who feared the national government and its monarchical tendencies" because his ideas shifted according to the shifts in his diagnosis of the problem. He recognized that the Articles of Confederation were too weak and that the powers needed to develop a nation were controlled by the states, so he justified his first stance. When he felt that the problem shifted to representatives acting solely in their own interest, his ideas shift to "protect individual liberties and minority rights." All this was reflected in his Virginia Plan, which was unlike anything proposed until that point.
When his ideas are applied to our modern day politics, Dahl pegs Madison as "the pluralist who unfortunately concocted our fragmented structure of government in order to protect minority rights at the expense of majority rule" and Matthews portrays him as "the symbol of American liberalism that promotes a selfish individualism." Madison himself actually offers an application of his ideas to modern politics with his thoughts on interest groups. He notes that they are "an ineradicable part of American social society" and that "people inevitably had interests, and because they wanted to protect those interests, they divided into political factions." His ideas in the Virginia Plan, and his reactions to plans of others reflected his awareness that "the regulation of these private factional interests was becoming the principal task of modern legislation, meaning that the spirit of party was in the future likely to be involved in the ordinary operations of government" and we catch a glimpse of his conviction that politicians should act in the best interests of the country, but these interests will be presented in heavy number.
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1 reply
njantrania said Dec 17, 2012 05:56:16
I also felt that Madison changed his views on federalism after the Constitution was written and once the government was starting to be formed based on how things were actually turning out (for example, when he saw that Washington and Hamilton were creating a large bureaucracy and army based more on a European country than Madison's version of an ideal republic, he began defending states' rights more). I think that even if he had won the Virginia Plan debate and it had been instituted in the Constitution, he wouldn't have been happy with how it turned out because although his views were occasionally pragmatic, they were often too idealistic. Wood quoted him as saying that leaders would be "disinterested" enough to not only look out for their own interests, but we can see in modern examples that this isn't always the case. For example, Congressmen often add amendments to bills that help only their constituents so that they can get reelected. I agree with your argument that Madison's ideas are applicable to interests groups and I'd extend it to say that his ideas about factions are also seen in the legislative branch, though his ideals are not always met.
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