My Enlightenment-era political reading has slowed down recently, not least because I’m at home, with all the distractions that come with that. Besides that, Federalist 30 through roughly 35 stated and reiterated the same argument, over and over. It was quite tedious. Let me save anyone wanting to read these documents the trouble: the federal government should not have any limits set in stone keeping it from collecting funds directly from the people. Rinse. Repeat.
Things got interesting around paper 36 or so (I’m not looking at the document at the moment, so that’s probably not exactly where the taxation section ends). Taking a philosophical turn, Madison-Publius starts to examine the extent to which the Constitution does in fact set up a Republic. Taking as the primary criteria the temporariness of office on one hand and the avoidance of mob rule on the other, Madison cites the staggered terms of Congressmen, Senators, and Presidents along with the direct election of Congressmen as opposed to the indirect of Senators and Presidents as evidence that such a system can in fact reflect not the wills of a few powerful men but the people as a whole. Moreover, he looks to such staggering of national-style and federal-style elections (i.e. elected by the people versus elected by the states) as a barrier against partisan spirits.
Once again the times have changed. I’m no historian of American political elections, but I know that in my own lifetime I can remember the emergence of the term “swing states,” several Senatorial elections in states where I didn’t live that got far more attention in the papers than did local races, and mobs being bused into contested states to intimidate poll workers. Again I wonder whether fast transportation, lightspeed communications, 24-hour television news, and other developments in the last two hundred thirty years or so haven’t mucked up some of the Enlightenment wisdom.
I’m not sure how fast I’ll read papers 41-50, but I do know that in the next block I’ll hit the halfway point. Cool.