John Locke Update / Research Newsletter

The System Works! and New Constitutional Workshop Offering

posted on in Founding Era

The System Works

Charles Krauthammer is channeling James Madison in this article about the current political situation in Washington.

Of all the endlessly repeated conventional wisdom in today’s Washington, the most lazy, stupid and ubiquitous is that our politics is broken. On the contrary. Our political system is working well (I make no such claims for our economy), indeed, precisely as designed — profound changes in popular will translated into law that alters the nation’s political direction.

The process has been messy, loud, disputatious and often rancorous. So what? In the end, the system works. Exhibit A is Wisconsin. Exhibit B is Washington itself.

Yes, the system is frustrating and messy, but it is not entirely broken. It is working just as James Madison and the other Founders designed it in 1787.

Madison in Federalist #10, perhaps the most important of the 85 articles in the Federalist Papers, argues that ancient-Greek direct democracy is too unstable.

Hence it is that such [direct] 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.

Thus to avoid instability and violence, the Constitution divides power among the three branches and then limits the people’s direct power over the branches. House members elected every 2 years, president elected every 4 years, and senators elected every 6 years (with only one-third up for election every two years). All of them are elected by different constituencies. Madison wanted it to be difficult for a passionate majority to make laws immediately after an election, although Obama tried after the 2008 election when the Democrats controlled the presidency and both houses. Madison saw that there was an equal danger from a one-man rule, or the tyranny of a majority over the minority or in Madison’s words:

A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; … and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual.

The people spoke out and rejected Obama’s change in the 2010 election, however. But Madison’s Constitution did not allow an immediate reversal, with the possible exception of a District Court rejection of Obamacare’s individual requirement to purchase health insurance.

The Constitution requires the new majority to sustain itself for two years until the 2012 election when changes in Presidency and the Senate will allow the new majority to implement needed changes. Messy, yes. Frustrating, yes. But we should be reminded of what Winston Churchill once said: “Representative democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried.”

A Forgotten Check on Power

Many times people focus all their attention on Washington, DC to solve problems. Sometimes the solution is closer than we think. States can serve as a check on centralization. 

In this article, Troy Kickler uses an historical example from the women’s suffrage movement to show how a more federal approach can lead to widespread political success. 

In this commentary, former NCHP lecturer and current NCHP Advisory Board member, Professor Kyle Scott, reveals how the political parties have made us focus on Washington and reminds readers that local elections can offer solutions.

New Constitutional Workshop Course Offered this Fall

We are pleased to announce that we are offering a new Constitutional Workshop along with the one we offered earlier this year.

Workshop #1: “What the Founders and the State Ratification Conventions Can Teach Us Today

The past 100 years of Progressive ideology have almost destroyed the US Constitution. This generation must restore the Constitution’s original intent of limited, federal government based on the rule of law.

This workshop provides today’s Patriots with the intellectual tools to restore original intent and repair the damage done. It explains what the framers meant by phrases such as the "general welfare,”  “necessary and proper” and other so called “elastic” clauses. In addition we explore the NC ratification debates and reveal how the Tar Heel State ensured that a Bill of Rights was added. By examining the important role of the states in the nation’s beginning and providing constitutional commentary based on the founder’s words, this workshop is a must for Americans interested in preserving the United States and a federal form of government.

Workshop #2: “What would the Federalists and Anti-federalists say about the current political and economic crises?”

In a continuing effort to understand how the Founding Era relates to our current constitutional crisis, we offer this new workshop that focuses on what is arguably the most important debate of the Founding Era. The Federalist supported and Anti-Federalists opposed the ratification of the Constitution written in Philadelphia in 1787. Their arguments about the fundamental principles of our constitutional government still speak to us 224 years later.

Understanding this debate among some of our most famous founders enables us to clarify our present predicament. Even though they engaged in a vigorous and sometimes bitter debate over the meaning of the Constitution, both sides would be horrified with how the Constitution has been twisted and distorted by the progressive ideology, liberal court justices and presidents and congressmen all too willing to expand government to assure their immediate re-election.

A more fundamental understanding of this Founding Era debate will help us restore the Constitution to its proper place as the bedrock of our Republic.

For more information regarding the workshop or to schedule one in your area, please contact:

Dr. Troy Kickler at [email protected]
Or Dr. Michael Sanera at [email protected]

Troy Kickler is the Founding Director of the North Carolina History Project and Editor of NorthCarolinahistory.org. He holds an M.S. in Social Studies Education from North Carolina A&T State University and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Tennessee. ...

Donate Today

About John Locke Foundation

We are North Carolina’s Most Trusted and Influential Source of Common Sense. The John Locke Foundation was created in 1990 as an independent, nonprofit think tank that would work “for truth, for freedom, and for the future of North Carolina.” The Foundation is named for John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher whose writings inspired Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders.

The John Locke Foundation is a 501(c)(3) research institute and is funded solely from voluntary contributions from individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations.