I’ve been reading A Patriot’s History of the United States. At 829 pages, this weighs in as the most substantive history book I’ve ever read. I am enjoying the read and learning a lot. One of the things that has occurred to me is that there are substantive parallels between early American history and current events; particularly as it relates to the size and role of government.
There seems to have always been a running and passionate debate over the size and role of government.
This debate is the result of an ingenious system that was created to both catalyze and sustain healthy and vigorous debate as witnessed by this paragraph from the book:
[James] Madison… correctly analyzed the necessity of political parties (“factions,” as he called them) and understood their role. An extensive republic, especially one as large as the United States would become, inevitably would divide society into a “greater variety of interests, of pursuits, of passions, which check each other.” Factions then should be encouraged. They provided the competition that tested and refined ideas. More important, they demanded that people inform themselves and take a side, rather than sliding listlessly into murky situations they did not choose to understand out of laziness.
Modern Americans are assaulted by misguided calls for “bipartisanship,” a code word for one side ceding its ideas to the party favored by the media. In fact, however, Madison detested compromise that involved abandoning principles, and in any event, thought that the Republic was best served when factions presented extreme differences to the voters, rather than shading their positions to the middle. The modern moderate voters – so highly praised in the media – would have been anathema to Madison, who wanted people to take sides as a means of creating checks and balances.” (pg. 122)
It seems that the founders understood something that we have overlooked… clearly articulated differences are good and helpful. They give thoughtful and engaged people the opportunity to pick the direction the organization (in this case, the country) is going to move.
I agree. I appreciate when people know what they believe and can passionately and intelligently articulate those beliefs.
What do you think? Do you like the contemporary emphasis on “tolerance” and “bipartisanship”?