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In 1787, James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, traditionally regarded as the Father of the United States Constitution, in the debates on Constitution, declared the following:

The man who is possessed of wealth, who lolls on his sofa or rolls in his carriage, cannot judge the wants or feelings of the day-laborer. The government we mean to erect is intended to last for ages. The landed interest, at present, is prevalent; but in process of time, when we approximate to the states and kingdoms of Europe, — when the number of landholders shall be comparatively small, through the various means of trade and manufactures, will not the landed interest be overbalanced in future elections, and unless wisely provided against, what will become of your government? In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability.

Why the rich can't judge the feelings of the laborer? Because he is incapable to understand the laborer? Or it means that he should not consider the feelings of the laborer and he has to ignore them?

Landed interest means the interest of the land owners?

The number of landholders shall be comparatively small, through the various means of trade and manufactures — it means that the number of rich people owning land becoming small comparing to the number of rich people that have industries and trade business?

What kind of innovation he was against? Innovation like "Hey! let's give to everyone a decent amount of land!" ?

"They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority." — This really sounds like "we should protect the filthy rich". The fact that he used the word "opulent" makes the speech look really worse, I think. Was that what he meant? To protect the ostentatiously costly and luxurious minority?

5

In the 4th century B.C., the greek philosopher Aristotle wrote a book titled, "Politics." In it, he discussed several different ways one might organize government.

Of the models discussed, he noted that democracy was probably best, but it had one fatal flaw: if every person got a vote, and all votes were counted equally, the poor would organize together and take all the wealthy peoples' stuff.

Aristotle's proposed solution was to reduce inequality by creating a welfare state. His reasoning was that if poor have enough to live reasonably well, they won't be sufficiently motivated to organize and take the wealthy peoples' stuff.

James Madison, having read Aristotle's work, was well aware of the flaw in democracy Aristotle identified. He didn't agree with Aristotle's solution, though. He proposed, instead, to structure the system of government in a way that guaranteed the wealthy got to make all the big decisions.

The primary way this was achieved was through the Senate, a small group of unelected (at the time, Senators were appointed) politicians who were loyal to monied interests and would serve very long terms. This provided the hedge against the "Tyranny of the Masses" Madison feared, without having to create the welfare state Aristotle had proposed.

Aristotle suggested appeasement of the masses, Madison preferred domination.

When he said, "The number of landholders shall be comparatively small, through the various means of trade and manufactures," he was saying there will always be more workers than CEOs. That represents a problem for CEOs in a democratic society where one man = one vote.

You asked, "What kind of innovation he was against?" People with money have always ruled the world. Innovation in this context would be true democracy, something the world has never seen. The closest we got was the 1960s.

When Madison said our government, "...ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority," he meant what he said. The government must not follow the will of the common man, but rather the will of the ruling elite.

He got his wish. A recent study, published in September 2014, concluded that, "Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."

Edit: I previously stated it was widely accepted in political science that the U.S. is a plutocracy. A political scientist disagreed with me, so I carefully reworded the last paragraph and included a link to a relevant study. Also, I should have said we are an Oligarchy not a Plutocracy.

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    Downvoted. As a political scientist, I can assure you that it is not widely recognized in our discipline that the US is a plutocracy. For one thing, we don't bandy-about terms like 'plutocracy'. – indigochild Oct 20 '16 at 20:58
  • Edited, hope it's more accurate now. Thx for the feedback. – jkhoffman Oct 20 '16 at 21:21
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One might notice that the direction of possession relating to "wealth" and ~grandeur~ is from that state and applied upon the person managing. Consider, what are the potentials for preserving God's wonders in nature in an actual case of equal distribution of land?

That said, Yes he was trying to generate a way to assure a balance towards realities sensitivities in such matters.

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"They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority." — This really sounds like "we should protect the filthy rich". The fact that he used the word "opulent" makes the speech look really worse, I think. Was that what he meant? To protect the ostentatiously costly and luxurious minority?

I'll address this one.

There are different ways to interpret this, but one of them is to look at it as a statement of principle - specifically, a firm opposition to the possibility of Tyranny of the majority, which was one of the Founders' - and especially Madison's - bugbears.

As to why specifically pander to land-owners, there are 3 good reasons:

  • First one is stemming from the "principle" above. If you stand on principle, you end up with ACLU protecting neo-nazis 1st amendment rights. You don't get to pick and choose.

  • Land-owners were a large political force at the time (some of the Founders were, in fact). If their interests weren't considered, they would be less inclined to back the process.

  • You're viewing this through your Marxist-coloured 21st centure lens, as evidenced by your choice of words "filthy rich". Back then, opulence wasn't seen as a major sin the way some people view it today (from the comfort of post-scarcity society's iPhones). Especially in USA of the time, prosperity was viewed as a virtue.

Another angle to consider is that violating the property rights of landowners is in general an attack on property rights. (one of the) main reasons people left for the Colonies was the prospect of owning land.

  • I think he used the term "filthy rich" in order to colloquialize "opulent"; i.e., he wasn't saying wealth was bad, but was saying it seemed as though Madison was suggesting that we need to protect the interests of the excessively wealthy. – Avi Sep 1 '15 at 22:12
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    @Avi - "filthy" is not the only synonym. That word choice is very telling. – user4012 Sep 1 '15 at 22:33
  • I think the word choice is meant to illustrate OP's opinion of what Madison was saying, not his own opinion of wealth. – Avi Sep 1 '15 at 22:46
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    Wow, now even a single word makes you a Marxist, maan! "Opulent" sounds like "arrogant" and "defiant" to me. So "filthy" addressed the "arrogance" and "defiance" not my views on wealth. To suggest that those who don't enjoy displays of arrogance and defiance are Marxist is kind of extreme. And yes I can imagine, owning slaves, exploiting and working them to death, or exploiting workers and making good money from it was viewed as a virtue in those times. Sadly, History is full of such examples of backward mentalities. – Joe Jobs Sep 4 '15 at 0:09
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    @user4012 - The 'tyranny of the majority' is almost definitely the correct answer, but I suspect this is attracting down votes because of the tone. There is no need to turn the question back on the OP. Are you opposed to editing that out? – indigochild Sep 26 '16 at 18:33

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