The Dangerous Vice

Written by Will Tarver, a Junior at Founders Classical Academy.

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Federalist 10 is the most important Federalist paper because it addresses and solves the problematic issue of faction by extending the sphere to refine and enlarge the public views to allow representatives to pick the view that is best for the good of the whole society.

According to Federalist 10, faction is a problem because it ruins government and acts contrary to the good of others. At the beginning of Federalist 10, Madison says that “the friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice” (Fed.10, Pg 71). Madison immediately points out that faction is a dangerous vice of free government. Why? He says that the friend of popular governments is most alarmed for the character and fate of government when it faces faction. Faction is dangerous because it tarnishes the character of government, and it leads to corruption and ruin. Later, Madison defines a faction as a group of people (majority or minority) “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” (Fed. 10, Pg 72). Not only does faction harm the government, but it hurts the individual as well. Madison defines faction as a group that acts against the rights of other citizens or against the common good. Factions work for their own interests and if not careful, a faction can take over the government. This is very problematic and because of that, Madison proposes two solutions.

In order to stop faction, Madison says that the public view must be enlarged and refined, and there needs to be an extension of the sphere. He first states that the public view needs to be enlarged and refined “by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country” and as a result, “the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good” (Fed. 10, Pg 76-77). According to Madison, the first solution to faction is to enlarge and refine the public views. The way this is done is by creating a bunch of views so that the representatives will feel obligated to please a bunch of these different constituents. As a result, they will pick the best view and “the public voice…will be more consonant to the public good.” The desire to please as many people as possible will cause the representatives to act in the good of the community as a whole, the opposite of what faction does. The second solution Madison offers is to extend the sphere. He says: “Extend the sphere and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens” (Fed. 10, Pg 78). The second solution to faction is to introduce a bunch of factions into the regime. Although this may seem odd, adding in a bunch of parties and interests prevents a majority faction from taking over and executing its desires. It will not have the ability to become the majority because of the different “mini-factions” that are in the government. As a result, they will not have the motive or ability to infringe upon the rights of others. According to Federalist 10, the solution to faction is to enlarge and refine the public view so that the representatives pick the view that is best for the whole society and to introduce a bunch of views and parties into government so that no one faction can get a majority.

Federalist 10 is the most important Federalist paper because it gives two solutions to faction, which is what causes many governments to become corrupt and to fail. It is crucial that governments guard themselves from this “dangerous vice.” Keeping faction from influencing government is crucial to a society’s success and helps it last. Faction is a big problem in government which is why it needs to be solved. Because Federalist 10 solves this harmful and common issue, it is therefore the most important Federalist paper.

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