Wednesday :: Oct 15, 2003

Federalist Paper #58: Madison Was Wrong


by paradox

Posted by Paradox

Federalist Paper #58, written by James Madison, addresses a fundamental issue of the peculiar bicameral structure of the federal legislature: since one body is represented by population (House), the other by mere entry into the union (Senate), isn’t it possible that a coalition of Senators from small-population states could thwart the will of the people?

It’s striking as one reads the Federalist Papers how fanatical the authors were in making sure the will of the people could not be thwarted. Antonin Scalia, obviously, has never read them.

“Notwithstanding the equal authority which will subsist between the two houses on all legislative subjects, except the originating of money bills, it cannot be doubted that the House, composed of the greater number of members, when supported by the more powerful States, and speaking the known and determined sense of a majority of the people, will have no small advantage in a question depending on the comparative firmness of the two houses.”

Madison was wrong. “Blue” states with high populations have long given more to the Treasury than they ever got back in federal spending.

Military base expenditures have always grossly skewed small population states. Huge installations exist in the middle of the country that have no business being there. Rumsfeld recently submitted 100 more to be closed; watch closely as small-population Senators ruthlessly protect their constituents, caring not a whit for the overall good of the people.

Perhaps the most rank example of small-population state power is in the granting of federal mining rights; around 8 Senators have complete control over mining rights that are a total ripoff. The prices are absurdly low, and the extraction companies aren’t even American. Senators toss the will of the people out the window without a second thought. It’s often pointed out that this occurs because of Senator’s self-interest; they’re paying off campaign contributors. It’s irrelevant—a coalition of Senators is still thwarting the will of the people.

Okay, so Madison was wrong. How wrong was he?

Time will tell, but the signs can only get more ominous as the plain states drain population. Hardly anyone lives in the interior anymore—Idaho, Nebraska, Dakotas, Wyoming, and Montana are almost empty. Their Senators will continue to thwart the will of the people, and extra vigilance should be employed it isn’t abused too much.

paradox :: 2:02 PM :: Comments (18) :: Digg It!