Factions and success in the small vs failure in the large

Richard Fernandez discusses ideas in the Federalist Papers that are visible in modern politics. Successful Failures is about survival of the fittest in the jungle with the local tribe as not necessarily being best for the health of the jungle as a whole. It is about factions, poisonous leaders, ruling elites, and informal networks.

The paradox that Putin exemplifies is that while factions breed formidable conspirators, they also create poisonous leaders. They succeed in themselves but cause the society around them to fail. That is because they dispense a favoritism which is ultimately ruinous for the nation. The result is a self-vetoing enterprise. Marian Tupy observed that Chile began to succeed at the moment when its junta began to allow economic freedom while Venezuela started to fail by going the other way. But few ruling elites have the sense to get themselves out of the way. Usually they have to be shoved aside.

The question is whether Madison’s defenses failed and the factions are inside the wire. America for a long time beat the odds but recently things have taken a turn for the worse. It is no accident that many of America’s troubles have coincided with the growth of identity politics, special interest groups, foreign lobbying and corruption. If so they have spread their poison and created an American version of the “informal networks” that proved so fatal in other countries, as Madison feared.

Moreover, the American factional system operates in the worst possible way. The Clinton Foundation and private email scandal is a portrait of venality without competence. The peculiar characteristics of American factionalism have bred something singular; a phenomenon at once cunning yet stupid, both corrupt and inept.

It is the freedom of the individual that is the source of accountability. If the group, the tribe, the faction becomes large enough to suppress or inhibit that freedom yet small enough for Putin like successes, then danger lurks.

Comments are closed.