Monday, November 28, 2005

Wisdom from the Federalist Papers

Here are some extracts that stood out to me as I read The Federalist Papers the other day. As it is not fair to judge The Federalist Papers by just reading small portions I would highly recommend reading them all. To read quotes is to read out of context. The government publishes them for free here:

Thomas Jefferson said that The Federalist Papers were, “the best commentary on the principles of government that was ever written.” Enjoy...

Hamilton writing about the Republican Right. . . ;)

"So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society . . . Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question." Federalist N0. 1

Now to get serious:

"For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sward. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution."
Federalist No. 1 (Hamilton)

No one will come out and say that they are against liberty. . .

"...a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants."
Federalist No. 1 (Hamilton)

No, pure democracy is never good. Rights are not secured by the mob. . .

"Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions. A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking."
Federalist No. 10 (Madison)

"A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion that a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State."
Federalist No. 10 (Madison)

"By a steady adherence to the Union we may hope, erelong, to become the arbiter of Europe in America, and to be able to incline the balance of European competitions in this part of the world as our interest may dictate."
Federalist No. 11 (Hamilton)

"In a state so insignificant our commerce would be prey to the wanton intermeddlings of all nations at war with each other; who, having nothing to fear from us, would with little scruple or remorse, supply their wants by depredations on our property as often as it fell in their way. The rights of neutrality will only be respected when they are defended by an adequate power." Federalist No. 11 (Hamilton)

"Let Americans disdain to be the instruments of European greatness! Let the thirteen States, bound together in a strict and indissoluble Union, concur in erecting one great American system, superior to the control of all transatlantic force or influence, and able to dictate the terms of the connection between the old and the new world!"
Federalist No. 11 (Hamilton)

Well they couldn't predict everything. . .

"It will always be far easier for the State governments to encroach upon the national authorities than for the national government to encroach upon the State authorities."
Federalist No. 17 (Hamilton)

The finger of God. . .

"The real wonder is that so many difficulties should have been surmounted [at the Constitutional Convention] with a unanimity almost as unprecedented as it must have been unexpected. It is impossible for any man of candor to reflect on this circumstance without partaking of the astonishment. It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution."
Federalist No. 37 (Madison)

And one more:

This is partly why the public school system is dangerous. The only way that a school system the caters to all Americans can be fair to all American views is to either boil down all diversity into the lowest common denominator or to only adopt what is considered the more popular, or majority, view. We see this with the exclusion of intelligent design in most school text books and treating evolution as the dominant position. A diversity of faction is necessary so no one will constitute a big enough majority to take over. . .

"If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of providing against this evil: the one by creating a will in the community independent of the majority; that is, of the society itself; the other, by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable. The first method prevails in all governments possessing an hereditary or self-appointed authority. This, at best, is but a precarious security; because a power independent of the society may as well espouse the unjust views of the major, as the rightful interests of the minor party, and may possibly be turned against both parties. The second method will be exemplified in the federal republic of the United States. Whilst all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority." Federalist No. 51 (Madison)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

And I thought it was just a desire to procrastinate...

"Information Fatigue" as defined by the OED:

Apathy, indifference, or mental exhaustion arising from exposure to too much information, esp. (in later use) stress induced by the attempt to assimilate excessive amounts of information from the media, internet, or work. (add school to that list)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Life on the sea vs. Life this morning

From Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad:

"He was the only man of us who still 'followed the sea.' The worst that could be said of him was that he did not represent his class. He was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them--the ship; and so is their country--the sea. One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same. In the immutability of their surroundings the
foreign shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a slightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as destiny. For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the secret of a whole continent, and generally he finds the secret not worth knowing. The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine."

I need to go wandering again...

(NOTE: graphic expands if clicked on)