Jefferson vs. Madison

... according to the inimitable Mark Shea:

The odd thing about America is that our whole system of government is predicated on a faith in the Fall. That's why we have checks and balances: because nobody can be trusted with too much power. The moment fallen man is given power is the moment he is tempted to forget what the power is for and start using it to acquire more power, no matter what it takes. And, just in case you are wondering, "Does this have dark implications for America since we are the sole superpower on earth?" the answer is "Yes."

The tension in American culture has always been between Jeffersonian cockeyed optimism and Madisonian realism. Our governmental institutions are founded on the belief that you cannot trust people with power. Our culture is founded more and more on faith in The Wisdom of the Common Man. That, by itself, is not a bad balance. But in the 20th century, there have been fewer and fewer Madisonian voices and more and more flatterers. Our entire advertising industry is all about giving you moral permission to indulge yourself because You Deserve It.

Religion has, to a large extent, also been co-opted by the flattery industry. God is crazy about you because you That Sort of Chap. Joel Osteen is the Face of American Protestantism. Jonathan Edwards, not so much. Catholics are afflicted with the Church of Aren't We Fabulous where it's always the Feast of St. Narcissus. Our Manufacturers of Culture are constantly playing to our vanity. And a theology of the Fall is highly inconvenient to this project. It's "guilt manipulation". It's "hatriotism". We want to hear about how wonderful we are, how wronged we've been, how much everybody owes us, how powerful we are.

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2 comments:

Donald Douglas said...

Man, where you get this stuff is beyond me! Madison didn't have some Armaggedon view of the country, he just didn't trust human nature. If Shea doesn't think people still think in these terms - of checks and balances - just ask President Bush every time he uses the veto whether he's Madisonian.

In any case, I followed up your "bee in the bonnet" post. Here's what Rick Moran says about Paul's incitation of political fringe groups:

"Is Paul pandering to the conspiracy nuts in America, knowing their enthusiastic support for him will assist his campaign? Or is he unaware that by appealing to the basest emotions brought to the surface by his dark hints involving dark forces carrying out a campaign to take away our freedoms, he is giving the paranoid, the fearful, and the ignorant haters a standard to rally around?

He is a foolish man if he believes he can control these forces. In the end, they can only destroy him."

I've got a whole post up on it. I'm hoping you'll get some reason and join me in supporting one of the mainstream GOP candidates. It's lonely out on the fringe - and potentially dangerous.

Anonymous said...

"Or is he unaware that by appealing to the basest emotions brought to the surface by his dark hints involving dark forces carrying out a campaign to take away our freedoms, he is giving the paranoid, the fearful, and the ignorant haters a standard to rally around? He is a foolish man if he believes he can control these forces. In the end, they can only destroy him."

This sounds more like George W. Bush than Ron Paul.