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BL1Y Reads Federalist #6

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This series is a bit of an experiment. I'll be reading each of the Federalist Papers, and providing a reaction to each one. I haven't read them before, and I'm not doing any research, so I'm armed with nothing more than some knowledge about the Constitutional Convention, a legal education that's gathering dust, and the benefit of hindsight. I aim to do 1-2 of these a week [yeah, yeah, shit comes up], and there are 85 total, so here goes what will likely be a year-long venture into a series of nation-shaping essays that have been reduced to a common knowledge that factions are mentioned somewhere, and are bad.

You can get a free Kindle edition of the Federalist Papers here.

 

No: 6. Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States, by Hamilton

Finally, after four in a row from John Jay, one of the least popular founding fathers (second only to John Quincy Adams), we get back to Hamilton. And man is this some good shit:

A man must be far gone in Utopian speculations who can serious doubt that if these States should either be wholly disunited, or only united in partial confederacies, the subdivisions into which they might be thrown would have frequent and violent contests with each other. To presume a want of motives for such contests as an argument against their existence would be to forget that men are ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious.

And boom goes the dynamites. The point of Federalist #6 is that we're a bunch if violent, self-aggrandizing monsters who will immediately turn on and destroy each other if we're not united as a single nation. That's the kind of statement that bites you in the ass later when you consider running for President. But, Hamilton was right. At the time adoption of the Constitution was being considered, many statesmen (on both sides of the question) believed that were it not adopted the country would fall in to chaos and the question of national government would be answered not by the ballot but the bayonet.

But hey, what about the Democratic Peace Theory, that democracies do not go to war with each other. The theory got a lot of attention in 2004 when President George W. Bush cited it in a press conference, explaining why bringing democracy to the Middle East was so important:

And the reason why I'm so strong on democracy is democracies don't go to war with each other. And the reason why is the people of most societies don't like war, and they understand what war means.... I've got great faith in democracies to promote peace. And that's why I'm such a strong believer that the way forward in the Middle East, the broader Middle East, is to promote democracy.

Hamilton addresses this very issue, though at the time it was the Republic Peace Theory. Keep in mind that the proposed Constitution was only partially a democratic republic, with the Senate being chosen by the states, and not by popular election. The idea is the same though, that these sorts of nations, where there is accountability to the public, don't go to war.

Hamilton's response to the theory is simple:

Have republics in practice been less addicted to war than monarchies? Are not the former administered by men as well as the latter?

Are not elected representatives as big as shit heads as kings?

And here's where Hamilton's argument is flawed. Yes, individual representatives may be as prone to favoring war for ambition, or jealously, or economic gain. But in a republic you need a critical mass of equally hot-headed representatives in order to declare war. That is the check that makes both republics and democracies less war-mongering. It is for this same reason that we ought to be extremely hesitant to give the Commander in Chief the power to unilaterally start a military campaign.

There is more in this essay on the specific reasons men might want to wage war, but they're not particularly interesting from a philosophical standpoint. They are however great as a piece of literary history. I don't want to give too much away, but a prostitute is involved. If you have a few minutes to kill, read this one.

[BL1Y Reads Federalist #5]

[BL1Y Reads Federalist #7]

[Read more from BL1Y]


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