James Madison’s Prescient Warning

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Republicans want to raise taxes on the poor to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy. CEOs are using taxpayer funded bailouts to rake in obscene salaries and bonuses. The wealthy fund play-for-pay think tanks that spit out position papers that support their benefactors’ desire to get wealthier. Certain media enterprises push messages such as corporate tax holidays and corporate deregulation that enhance the wealth of the few at the expense of the many.

Professor G. William Domhoff calculates that 1% of the nation’s population owns 43%, and 10% owns 83%, of the nation’s financial wealth. This is the scenario that James Madison warned of, in an essay published in the New York Post.

Madison wrote:

We are free today substantially but the day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. A republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when that day comes, when the wealth of the nation will be in the hands of a few, then we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation to the changed conditions.

The quote is included in the 1972 book entitled The Great Quotations: The Wit and Wisdom of the Ages. The book was written by George Seldes who spent thirty years researching the book for accuracy.

Madison was a firm believer in meritocracy. In Federalist no. 57, he wrote:

Who are to be the objects of popular choice? Every citizen whose merit may recommend him to the esteem and confidence of his country. No qualification of wealth, of birth, of religious faith, or of civil profession, is permitted to fetter the judgment or disappoint the inclination of the people.

When the wealthy use their money and power to influence governmental policy to enhance their wealth and power, meritocracy is replaced by a sense of entitlement. Paul Krugman wrote about the Angry Rich “who feel that things to which they are entitled are being taken away.” In The Wail of the 1%, when the privileged class loses its privileges, they get angry.

Madison’s words ring true today and we ignore his warning at the Republic’s peril. The “best elements in the country” cannot be found in the field of Republican candidates nor in the current occupant of the White House.

H/T: Rick Ungar.

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