Federalist No. 1

Elections are coming on both sides of the border, and while this is not a political blog, politics does have a considerable impact on the supply chain when the political parties introduce new trade legislation or economic policies. Since this blog is an educationally focussed blog, it’s a fair topic in that respect. And while the Federalist papers do not have much to do with Supply Management, they do provide the underpinnings upon which the United States was formed and the basis for nearly every republic* that was formed since. Thus, it is the case that much of the free (trade) world owes its philosophical foundations to the work.

So why are we reviewing these now? Basically, the doctor is starting to think that, in recent times, people around the world are losing their way and forgetting the role of the representative AND the role of the represented. So, given that election time is coming up in the U.S., now is as good of a time as any.

In Federalist No. 1, (Alexander) Hamilton writes to the people of the state of New York and states that, AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America which has, in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed.

In this seminal piece, Hamilton asks whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force, especially considering the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument, and consequence of the offices they hold under the State establishments. After all, we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles
than their antagonists
and a dangerous ambition
more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for
the firmness and efficiency of government

And then, after noting that he is asking his fellow-citizens, after attentive consideration, to adopt the new Constitution, as he is convinced that this is the safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness, he states that he will not only frankly acknowledge his convictions but lay before you the reasons on which they are founded. His arguments will be open to all, and may be judged by all.

Philosophers and political scientists may disagree, but I think this is the key takeaway from the first Federalist publication. A true politician asking you to ratify something will not only acknowledge his convictions, but share with you the reasons why so you can understand whether or not it is truly in your best interests and why. He or she will present his or her arguments willingly and openly, and let you come to an informed decision on your own. A republic is an open form of government, not a closed one.

* Why am I using the word republic and not democracy? In the literal sense, the US is a republic. A republic is a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of the rulers, and where offices of states are subsequently directly or indirectly elected or appointed rather than inherited. In comparison, if you look at the definition of (the original) democracy (in ancient Greece), it is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives, but the definition of eligible citizens was restricted to Athenian males at least 20 years of age (as women, slaves, foreigners, and men under 20 could not vote). Furthermore, in this first Federalist publication, Hamilton refers to the true principles of republican government (where republican refers to the type of government, and not a particular party, just so we’re clear).

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