Federalist Nos. 13 – 14

Federalist No. 13 left me with imagining one of two conclusions based on the following statement:

Nothing can be more evident than that the thirteen States will be able to support a national government better than one half, or one third, or any number less than the whole.

The two conclusions that I can draw from this – one of which must be true – are that Hamilton could not conceive (or did not consider) the incredible waste that could be perpetrated by a central government or else we are extremely lucky not to have the amount of waste we are paying for be multiplied by a number of regional confederacies with independent central governments.

Federalist No. 14 attempts to draw a clear distinction which many people today still do not understand. It is a distinction which is vital to having our government function properly.

The error which limits republican government to a narrow district has been unfolded and refuted in preceding papers. I remark here only that it seems to owe its rise and prevalence chiefly to the confounding of a republic with a democracy, applying to the former reasonings drawn from the nature of the latter. The true distinction between these forms . . . is, that in a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic, they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents.

The confusion around this issue is evidence of the fact that Americans must be made – being born in this nation is no guarantee of understanding and promoting the ideas of liberty and limited representative government that brought our nation to its greatness.

What I had never realized before was the fact that there was apparently widespread confusion back in the 18th century concerning the difference between a republic and a democracy. Today we suffer from two problems in our country regarding government. One, many people mistakenly believe that we are a democracy and try to treat government function as such. Two, some people properly recognize the republican form of our government and mistake or ignore the fact that some issues should be decided in a democratic manner by the people rather than placing more expansive powers in the hands of their elected representatives. This is especially true on issues such as congressional pay where there is an inherent conflict of interest on the part of those representatives.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.

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3 Responses to Federalist Nos. 13 – 14

  1. Reach Upward says:

    The purpose of a republic is to create a check on the main problem of democracies: the tyranny of the majority. Democracy has been described as two wolves and a sheep voting on what will be for dinner.

    While there are matters that probably ought to be democratically decided, a study of California’s system of ballot initiatives — where the populace votes on all kinds of issues — shows that this produces results that are most often (not always) far worse than the standard legislative process.

  2. David says:

    I’m completely in favor of a republic. It just seems to me that specific issues that directly affect the legislative bodies (I suggested congressional pay before) should be decided, or at least approved, in a democratic fashion to put a check on legislators making laws for their own benefit (as a body even more than as individuals) rather than the benefit of their constituents.

  3. Reach Upward says:

    I wholeheartedly agree.

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