Federalists and Anti-Federalists The Reasons for Wanting an Effective Government Over a Responsive Government
I think the main concern for establishing a government should be the effectiveness of the government, rather than responsiveness to the voters. I will first go over the arguments each side presents: why the Anti-federalists disliked any branch of government that was not directly, elected or responsible to the people, and why the Federalists liked the idea of a government that is able to keep the people in check when they attempted to do something stupid. My reasons for wanting an effective government over a responsive one is that, overall an effective government would be more intelligent. As a group people are stupid, that an effective government can protect the rights of minorities while a responsive government could lead to a tyranny of the majority, and by having a government further away from the people it will be more efficient. The Anti-federalists were in favor of a government more responsive to the people. They viewed any branch of the government not directly put into power by the people as bad. On the Judiciary: “… those who are to be vested with it, are to be placed in a situation altogether unprecedented in a free country… No errors they may commit can be corrected by any power above them… nor can they be removed from office for making ever so many erroneous adjudications.” (121) On the President: “To whom is he responsible? To the Senate, his own council. If he makes a treaty bartering the interests of his country, by whom is he to be tried? – By the very persons [the Senate] who advised him to perpetrate the act.” (97) And on the Senate: “… is it not a monster in the political creation, which we ought to regard with horror?” (71) They also had problems with the House of Representatives, but it was due to the amount of officials, not their position in the government.
The Federalists were in favor of an effective government, one that could provide a sufficient check on the people. On the Judiciary: “In a republic it is no less excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body. And it is the best expedient which can be devised in any government, to secure a steady, upright and impartial administration of the laws.” (136) On the President (pertaining to the veto): “The propriety of the thing does not turn upon the supposition of superior wisdom or virtue in the executive: But upon the supposition that the legislative will not be infallible: That the love of power may sometimes betray it into a disposition to encroach upon the rights of other members of the government…” (114) On the Senate: “They may restrain the profusion or errors of the house of representatives…” (78) The Federalists had worries about the experience of the members in the House of Representatives, that they would be “… more apt… to fall into the snares that may be laid for them.” (58) As a group people are stupid. We can look to their reactions to anything bad, such as any riot. Something will trigger the public, be it a murder, police brutality, or a natural disaster, and they will begin to indiscriminately destroy anything, even if it was in no way tied to the trigger. They are equally stupid at the polls, mostly due to misinformation.
Anyone can run a campaign that compares their opponent to Hitler or something equally bad, and people will buy it. Take the Birther movement for instance. It was a racially motivated campaign to paint President Obama as a non-citizen who obtained the office illegally. Sadly there was elected officials who went along with this, but not all of them. There are enough intelligent elected officials to know that it was complete bogus. If a government were to respond to even one-tenth of the allegations voters bring up it would be even more useless than it is now. They need to be able to ignore the general foolishness of the loudest part of the public and do their job. One of the issues the Anti federalists had is how the President was to be elected. He was not to be elected through the means of a popular election, rather through electors from each state, who were elected by the people. The further removed from the people the less likely the one being elected is going to be an imbecile. Tench Coxe says (in reference to how the President is chosen), “Further, he cannot be an idiot, probably not a knave or tyrant…” (103) It is incredibly important the one being elected is elected by semi-intelligent people who can sift between misinformation and real information. People are dumb, and there needs to be a protection against their idiocy. One of the problems that comes from a responsive government, and a democracy, is producing a gauge that can actually measure what all the public wants. As it stands elections are not an accurate measure of this. The 2012 Presidential election had a 58.2% turnout rate. (McDonald, 2013) The highest turnout rate by state goes to Minnesota, with 75.5%. (McDonald, 2013) How can a government be responsive if there isn’t even a 90% turnout rate? Another problem that comes from this is that the loudest people are generally the ones that are listened to, and if their views are more extreme it would throw off any chance that a government could be effectively responsive.
An effective government protects the rights of minorities and a tyranny of the majority. This ties to the above point that people are stupid. We can see the suppression of minorities throughout history, anything from slavery to banning same-sex marriage. Large groups of people see anything they don’t consider normal as a threat. Take the example of same-sex marriage. People of the same sex have had relationships since the dawn of time, and other creatures do the same. But because it is seen as different the majority of people do their best to crush it. They cherry-pick the details, spreading false information that same-sex couples make worse parents, that they are destroying marriage, that they are abominations in the eyes of God. There is zero evidence to support these claims. The majority doesn’t like it because it is different. There has to be a protection for the rights of minorities, and, as stated in the previous paragraph, the further from the people the officials are they better they are at looking past prejudice and avoiding the mistakes of the majority. In Utah it wasn’t the people who voted to allow same-sex marriage (and by doing so giving equal rights to a minority), it was a Federal judge, a non-elected official that is far removed from the base voters, and it was the people who voted to keep these rights from the minority in the first place. Alexander Hamilton said, concerning the Judiciary branch, “In a republic it is a no less excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body. And it is the best expedient which can be devised in any government, to secure a steady, upright and impartial administration of the laws.” (136) There must be a check to insure that all men have the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
For a government to be effective there needs to be intelligent people in control. Unfortunately intelligent people seem to make up a small portion of the population. Part of the reason for needing intelligent people in the government is their ability to know what needs to be done, regardless of what the people want. In our current form of government we have a branch that is entirely devoted to the responsiveness of the people: the Legislative branch. Originally the government was further separated from the people, with the House being the only group directly elected by the people. The senate was a degree away from the people, being elected by the state legislature; the president was similar, being elected by electors elected by the people, and the Judiciary was the furthest away, being appointed, not elected, by members of the government already a degree away from the people. The closer the elected official is to the people the more likely they are to give into the whims of their constituents, who, as a group, are idiots. For a government to be effective there must be some people in it having some level of intelligence. In the old form of the senate, “No ambitious, undeserving or unexperienced youth can acquire a seat in this house by means of the most enormous wealth or most powerful connections…” (78) A person must have wisdom in order to use their power appropriately. “It is evident that there would be greater danger of his not using his power when necessary, than of using it too often, or too much.” (115) If every election were a popular one we would only have idiots and knaves in office, people unwilling to do what is needed, fearul of upsetting the population. “These are men, who under any circumstances will have the courage to do their duty at every hazard.” (115) Duty isn’t something a politician can have if they only care about what people want, duty is what a political ought to do.
An effective government is a much better form of government than a responsive one. Anti-federalists would have a government answerable to the people in every aspect, and in doing so would cripple a government, filling it with people who only care how they look to their voters, fearful of doing anything that would alienate them and lose their office. Federalists would have an effective government, one that is able to ignore the idiocies of groups of people and do what is needed to succeed. When people are in a group they are stupid, and would demand stupid things, and the only way to combat their absurdities is to be able to ignore them. A responsive government would require a certain level of voter turnout. Majorities will disregard the rights of minorities, and the only way to destroy a tyranny of the majority is to, once again, be able to ignore the majority, something a responsive government would not be able to do. Finally, for any government to succeed, there must be intelligent people at the head, people that can view a situation and, as usual, ignore the whining of the population in order to do what needs doing.