Federalist No. 10: How Do Factions Affect the President as Administrator‐in‐Chief?

Published date01 December 2011
Date01 December 2011
David H. Rosenbloom is Distinguished
Professor of Public Administration in
the School of Public Affairs at American
University in Washington, D.C. A member of
the National Academy of Public Administra-
tion, he is the recipient of the Gaus, Waldo,
Brownlow, and Levine awards, among
others. His scholarship focuses primarily
on public administration and democratic
E-mail: rbloom313@hotmail.com
S22 Public Administration Review • December 2011 • Special Issue
David H. Rosenbloom
American University
Federalist No. 10 arguably is the most frequently read
of the Federalist Papers, in no small measure because it
of‌f ers a distinct and often negative image of the polity
as a source of conf‌l ict. It argues that factions cannot be
tamed, but they can be controlled.  is essay argues that
factions have weakened ef‌f ective public administration
and of‌f ers a detailed discussion of the proliferation of
interest groups and their role in undermining the system
of checks and balances.
Federalist No. 10 deals primarily with the
problem of factions in republican govern-
ment. Written by James Madison, it considers
factions to be “a number of citizens, whether amount-
ing to a majority or minority of the whole, who are
united and actuated by some
common impulse of passion,
or of interest, adverse to the
rights of other citizens, or to
the permanent and aggregate
interests of the community”
(Carey and McClellan 2001,
43). Madison argues that elimi-
nating factions is undesirable
and impractical. Consequently,
the ef‌f‌i cacy of the Constitution
in dealing with factions depends
on its provisions for control-
ling them. Madison points to
majority rule as a check on
minority factions and to federal-
ism and an extended republic
as bulwarks against the forma-
tion of majority factions. He
mentions the roles of citizens,
electors, and representatives in
controlling factions, but not those of the president or
the judiciary—and he of‌f ers only passing reference to
Introduction: The Problem of Factions
Despite massive changes in the structure of U.S. gov-
ernment, federalism, the extensiveness of the extended
republic, and the proliferation of interest groups,
Madison’s diagnosis of the causes and consequences
of factions still resonates in our hyperpluralistic age.
Factions are caused by human nature. First, “as long
as the connection subsists between … reason and …
self-love,” an individual’s “opinions and … passions
will have a reciprocal inf‌l uence on each other; and the
former will be objects to which the latter will attach
themselves” (Federalist No. 10, Carey and McClellan
2001, 43). Second, “the diversity in the faculties of
men, from which the rights of property originate, is
not less an insuperable obstacle to an [sic] uniformity
of interests” (43). Among the consequences of factions
are the ability of minority interests to “clog the admin-
istration [and] convulse the society” (45). Majority
factions pose a potential “dan-
ger” to the “public good” and
“private rights” (45).
Madison’s prescription for
controlling factions, by contrast,
has proven inapt. On the sim-
plest level, his extended republic
has generated an extensive
proliferation of interest groups,
many of which f‌i t his def‌i nition
of factions. More complexly,
neither Madison nor any of the
Constitution’s framers pos-
sibly could have foreseen the
development, scope, and policy-
making roles of the contempo-
rary U.S. administrative state.
ere were roughly 4 million
people in the United States
when the Constitution was rati-
f‌i ed; at the end of World War II, there were approxi-
mately the same number of civilian federal employees.
Although hagiographers of the framers might argue
that the Constitution nevertheless of‌f ers a blueprint
for modern public administration, in reality, it does
not.  e Constitution divides authority over federal
administration between Congress and the president,
Federalist No. 10: How Do Factions Af‌f ect the President
as Administrator-in-Chief?
Madison’s prescription for
controlling factions … has
proven inapt. On the simplest
level, his extended republic
has generated an extensive
proliferation of interest
groups, many of which f‌i t his
def‌i nition of factions. More
complexly, neither Madison
nor any of the Constitution’s
framers possibly could have
foreseen the development,
scope, and policy-making roles
of the contemporary U.S.
administrative state.

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