Tea Party and Montesquieu

An interesting article on the Tea Party and Montesquieu

Second, Madison contended, because the state and local governments are close to the people—in sight and in mind, within reach and control—they and not the federal government are the natural instruments of civic agency. If, however, they were made to be dependent on and subject to the national government, they would cease to serve this function, and the sheer size of the country would stand in the way of concerted popular political action. It would prevent the exercise of “that control” on the national legislature “which is essential to a faithful discharge of its trust, [since] neither the voice nor the sense of ten or twenty millions of people, spread through so many latitudes as are comprehended within the United States, could ever be combined or called into effect, if deprived of those local organs, through which both can now be conveyed.” In such circumstances, Madison warned prophetically, “the impossibility of acting together, might be succeeded by the inefficacy of partial expressions of the public mind, and this at length, by a universal silence and insensibility.” It was the absence of effective popular checks that would leave the national government to a “self directed course.”

Madison, Jefferson, and their heirs in the Jacksonian period were arguably wrong about the political consequences implicit in the program proposed by Hamilton in the 1790s and revived by Henry Clay in the late 1820s. Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans implemented a policy indistinguishable from Hamilton’s program and Clay’s American System, and that policy did not have the consequences that Madison, his associates, and their heirs feared. But the prospect that Madison imagined is, in fact, the prospect the world’s most venerable democratic republic now faces.

Over almost a century, under the influence of the Progressives and their heirs—the proponents of the New Deal, the Great Society, and Barack Obama’s New Foundation we have experienced a gradual consolidation of power in the federal government. Legislative responsibilities have been transferred to administrative agencies lodged within the executive—such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and the vast array of bodies established under the recent health-care reform—and these have been delegated in an ever increasing number of spheres the authority to issue rules and regulations that have the force of law.

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