Federalist Relevance Madison's Relevance Today:Essay

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[. . .] This faction might be a majority (and might not), but even so it is this type of influence that the Federalist No. 10 says the Constitution is meant to limit.

Another debate that is similarly splitting the country, and largely along similar lines, is the debate over "women's rights" or "religious liberty," depending on who is framing the issue (Smith & Ferraro, 2012). The way the issues is framed by the politicians and by the media is also of utmost importance in determining the validity of the claims each side is making, and Federalist No. 10 helps use to see this, as well. If a faction is a group that is trying to impose their opinion on the government/society as a whole without accounting for the logical implications and demands of liberty and the overall benefit and progress of the nation, then that faction's effects need to be limited by the working of government. Framing the issue as one of "religious liberty" by arguing that institutions should not be required to pay for things like birth control if it is against their religious beliefs makes a rule forcing them to make this payment appear to be un-Constitutional, according to the defense of the Constitution Madison raises.

Framing the issue as one of "women's rights," on the other hand, insists that women have a fundamental right to be able to control their reproductive potentials and outcomes, and that a standard healthcare package should include these elements. This has been a long-running issue of debate in the media and in terms of public policy, with many different specific examples from abortion to birth control being cited a as "medicalization" or "politicization" of women's bodies (Naral, par. 5). Both sides try to frame the issue in such a way that there is no interpretation possible other than that their liberties are being trampled, and in this both sides re guilty of the faction-like behavior described by Madison as a danger to and of democracy.

There are also some issues that appear somewhat less controversial on the surface but that still smack of factionalism in the sense described and investigated in Federalist No. 10. Wearing seat belts seems like good public safety and health policy, and creating and enforcing seat belt laws -- something that states and not the federal government does -- thus doesn't seem like much of a problem at first blush. One investigation of the issue found, however, that it was through the machinations of the federal government (specifically the Department of Transportation) and auto manufacturers that these laws came to pass, which would make their passage very much a factional issue indeed, and a highly insidious one as it was a faction of a very narrow minority that included officials in positions of public trust and empowerment (Holdorf, par. 4). Media attention to this issue has been virtually non-existent, especially ni recent years, however it still represents evidence of factional forces -- or the perception of factional forces -- at work in the sphere of public policy and public discussion and debate.


Madison's Federalist No. 10 is still just as relevant today as when it was first published more than two centuries ago. The debate surrounding the rectitude and the constitutionality of many specific issues is representative of exactly the type of factionalism he warned against in this document. If anything, the fact that there is so much controversy surrounding so many issues -- and so much policy change arising from this controversy -- suggests and even greater relevance of such warnings today.

Works Cited

Holdorf, William. The Fruad of Seat Belt Laws. Accessed 7 May 2012. http://www.thefreemanonline.org/features/the-fraud-of-seat-belt-laws/

Madison, James. Federalist No. 10. 1787. Accessed 7 May 2012. http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa10.htm

McCormack, John. PPP Poll: 33% of Voters Say Gay Marriage Should be Legal, 57% Say It Should Be Illegal. Accessed 7 May 2012. http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/ppp-poll-33-voters-say-gay-marriage-should-be-legal-57-say-it-should-be-illegal

NARLA. (2012). Politicization: A New Era for Women's Bodies. 2012. Accessed 7 May 2012. http://prochoicenc.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/politicization-a-new-era-for-womens-bodies/

Pressman, Gabe. The Constitutional Argument for Same-Sex Marriage. 2009. Accessed 7 May 2012. http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Gay-Marriage-and-the-Constitution-78467477.html

Smith, Donna and Ferraro, Thomas. House GOP look to reshape birth control debate. 2012. Accessed 7 May 2012. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/10/us-gop-birthcontrol-idUSBRE82813620120310 [END OF PREVIEW]

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