James Madison stood tall enough to see the future, and alerted us to the potential consequences of a government led by a seriously dysfunctional ruling class

James Madison on dysfunctional government

By —— Bio and Archives--March 10, 2019

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James Madison on dysfunctional governmentThere are seriously negative consequences to America as a result of the tabloidization of the erratic and bizarre behavior of America’s ruling class—elected and unelected—that navigate in, over, and around the D.C. Swamp.

The man often called The Father of the U.S. Constitution foresaw the worst of those consequences as “the mischievous effects of a mutable government.” He imagined several of those effects in Federalist Paper No. 62 as, like very few other among the nation’s pantheon of Founders, he peered over the horizon into what could go wrong in the new Republic.


First, regarding international affairs:

“In the first place, it forfeits the respect and confidence of other nations, and all the advantages connected with national character. An individual who is observed to be inconstant to his plans, or perhaps to carry on his affairs without any plan at all, is marked at once, by all prudent people, as a speedy victim to his own unsteadiness and folly‚ĶEvery nation, consequently, whose affairs betray a want of wisdom and stability, may calculate on every loss which can be sustained from the more systematic policy of their wiser neighbors. But the best instruction on this subject is unhappily conveyed to America by the example of her own situation. She finds that she is held in no respect by her friends; that she is the derision of her enemies; and that she is a prey to every nation which has an interest in speculating on her fluctuating councils and embarrassed affairs.”

The internal consequences of dysfunctional governance are even worse, he wrote:

“The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessing of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?”

The consistency of American jurisprudence, most notably exercised by the once well-respected U.S. Department of Justice, and its once legendary Federal Bureau of Investigation, has sunk, in widespread popular perception, into the darkest depths of the Swamp. A reclamation of reputation will be a long-time coming. The mantra that rank-and-file lawyers and agents remain solid, while no doubt largely true, carries little impact for recovery. For it remains true as said: A fish dies from the head.

“Another effect of public instability is the unreasonable advantage it gives to the sagacious, the enterprising, and the moneyed few over the industrious and uniformed mass of the people. Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue, or in any way affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change, and can trace its consequences; a harvest, reared not by themselves, but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow-citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the FEW, not for the MANY.”

Who among you paying U.S. income taxes would not trade your annual payment for that which is rendered by Amazon?

Turning to the nation’s commerce, Madison wrote:

“In another point of view, great injury results from an unstable government. The want of confidence in the public councils damps every useful undertaking, the success and profit of which may depend on a continuance of existing arrangements. What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not but that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed? What farmer or manufacturer will lay himself out for the encouragement given to any particular cultivation or establishment, when he can have no assurance that his preparatory labors and advances will not render him a victim to an inconstant government? In a word, no great improvement or laudable enterprise can go forward which requires the auspices of a steady system of national policy.”

Constancy in a nation’s economic health requires stable government policies. In their absence, doubts about the future of commerce abound, and a nation fails to reach its potential.

Lastly, Madison described, with relatively few words, the greatest effect of dysfunctional governance—one he labeled “deplorable”.

But the most deplorable effect of all is that diminution of attachment and reverence which steals into the hearts of the people, towards a political system which betrays so many marks of infirmity, and disappoints so many of their flattering hopes. No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable, without possessing a certain portion of order and stability.”

He was five feet, four inches tall. Some of his detractors called him “Little Jemmy.” But he stood tall enough to see the future, and alerted us to the potential consequences of a government led by a seriously dysfunctional ruling class.

And so here we are.


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Lee Cary -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Since November 2007, Lee Cary has written hundreds of articles for several websites including the American Thinker, and Breitbart’s Big Journalism and Big Government (as “Archy Cary”).  His work has been quoted on national television (Sean Hannity) and on nationally syndicated radio (Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin).  He is quoted in Jerome Corsi’s book “The Obama Nation,” in Mark Levin’s “Liberty and Tyranny.”  His pieces have posted on the Drudge Report and on the website Real Clear Politics.  Cary holds a B.S. in Economics from Northern Illinois University, and a Masters and a Doctorate in Theology from the Methodist seminary at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.  He served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army in Military Intelligence. Cary lives in Texas.

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