Ah, those Founding Fathers! Ya gotta love ’em. They were brave men and wise, and their wisdom stands the test of time.
Consider, for example, the Federalist Papers, editorials written early in our history to explain the new American constitution to the public. Consider in particular the famous Federalist Paper Number Ten, about the problem of faction. What James Madison called a faction is what we today call a “special interest.” But let me quote Madison: “By a faction,” says Madison, “I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a 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.”
You can see the beauty of this definition. Madison’s concept excludes any politically active groups that are fighting for the interests or rights of all of us. But it covers all groups, whether “actuated by passion or interest,” who just want to grab something for themselves at the expense of everyone else, for instance a subsidy or a price support or a regulation against a competitor. Madison’s definition also includes folks you wouldn’t think at first to regard as a special interest: like power-grabbing career politicians, whose factional propensities we would do well to recognize and combat. As usual, good work James.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.