Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On the Need for Pluralism in Judaism

As you may remember from history- the Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to convince New York to ratify the constitution. Of particular interest to me in this post is federalist 10:


To the People of the State of New York:
AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction.

The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it.

The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations.

The valuable improvements made by the American constitutions on the popular models, both ancient and modern, cannot certainly be too much admired; but it would be an unwarrantable partiality, to contend that they have as effectually obviated the danger on this side, as was wished and expected.

Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.

However anxiously we may wish that these complaints had no foundation, the evidence, of known facts will not permit us to deny that they are in some degree true. It will be found, indeed, on a candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses under which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other causes will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes; and, particularly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of public engagements, and alarm for private rights, which are echoed from one end of the continent to the other.

These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations.

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves.

The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.

So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.

Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of citizens? And what are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine? Is a law proposed concerning private debts?

It is a question to which the creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other. Justice ought to hold the balance between them. Yet the parties are, and must be, themselves the judges; and the most numerous party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction must be expected to prevail. Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufactures?

are questions which would be differently decided by the landed and the manufacturing classes, and probably by neither with a sole regard to justice and the public good. The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets.

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens.

To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed. Let me add that it is the great desideratum by which this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has so long labored, and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.

By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time must be prevented, or the majority, having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression.

If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together, that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful.

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual.

Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.

The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.

The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people. The question resulting is, whether small or extensive republics are more favorable to the election of proper guardians of the public weal; and it is clearly decided in favor of the latter by two obvious considerations:

In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the republic may be, the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to guard against the cabals of a few; and that, however large it may be, they must be limited to a certain number, in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude. Hence, the number of representatives in the two cases not being in proportion to that of the two constituents, and being proportionally greater in the small republic, it follows that, if the proportion of fit characters be not less in the large than in the small republic, the former will present a greater option, and consequently a greater probability of a fit choice.

In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters.

It must be confessed that in this, as in most other cases, there is a mean, on both sides of which inconveniences will be found to lie. By enlarging too much the number of electors, you render the representatives too little acquainted with all their local circumstances and lesser interests; as by reducing it too much, you render him unduly attached to these, and too little fit to comprehend and pursue great and national objects. The federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures.

The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression.

Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary.

Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic,--is enjoyed by the Union over the States composing it. Does the advantage consist in the substitution of representatives whose enlightened views and virtuous sentiments render them superior to local prejudices and schemes of injustice? It will not be denied that the representation of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite endowments. Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase this security.

Does it, in fine, consist in the greater obstacles opposed to the concert and accomplishment of the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority? Here, again, the extent of the Union gives it the most palpable advantage.

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.

In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government. And according to the degree of pleasure and pride we feel in being republicans, ought to be our zeal in cherishing the spirit and supporting the character of Federalists.


Madison, the writer of federalist 10 is saying that the of all of the promises of a well designed republican government, none deserves to be more elaborated on than the how it would keep the passions of a majority faction from plunging a republic into a dictatorship. Madison then takes us on a thought experiment. Either one can destroy the liberty of the faction so that it can't exist, or give everyone the same opinions. Both possibilities are then reasoned to be completely untenable.

Madison follows that if the causes of faction cannot be gotten rid of then perhaps its effects can be gotten rid of. The objective is to secure the rights of a minority faction while still being a government of the majority. For that to happen, either the existence of the issue that the majority faction wants to take up has to stop, or the majority should have its agenda obstructed.

One cannot end the existence of the issue, however a republic can provide what a pure democracy cannot, the facilitation of factions with different and competing interests with minimized true popular majority.

And how is this relevant to Judaism? The need for different denominations, the need for mutual respect amongst the denominations (of which one particular denomination is sadly less adept at than probably every other, they know who they are, the name begins with an o), and the unwiseness of the apparent current trend towards centralized religion within orthodoxy.


Garnel Ironheart said...

First off, Orthodoxy is not the only intolerant denomination, just the one most in the news about it. In Israel, the Israeli Reform Action Centre (IRAC) works overtime to make sure that new shuls and yeshivos are not built in any neighbourhoods that aren't 100% religious. In Cleveland, the Reform community was instrumental in getting an Orthodox congregations application to build a shul denied because they didn't want more "frummies" moving into the area.
Again, not to criticize one more than the other. All sides are equally guilty and suggesting one side is worse shows a certain, ironic intolerance as well.

SJ said...

Orthodox Jews have a rule to not go to reform synagogues even for celebrations for family members orthodox jews don't consider conservative & reform judaism to be a true form of judaism, and in more extreme circles such as that of Mordechai Eliyahu a former chief rabbi of Israel, reform jews get blamed for incurring God's wrath for the holocaust.

Orthodoxy is clearly the less tolerant sect.

Garnel Ironheart said...

I know Conservative Jews who, on principle, won't daven in Orthodox shuls because of the mechitzah. My point is simply that it goes both ways. The difference is that Orthodoxy is based on solid rules while most important decisions heterodox Jews make is "on principle" which doesn't sound very obejective.

SJ said...

>> The difference is that Orthodoxy is based on solid rules while most important decisions heterodox Jews make is "on principle" which doesn't sound very obejective.

Garnel, first I want to thank you for posting. I appreciate the disagreement, perhaps more than I appreciate agreement, though perhaps if one agrees with me, it would be great for one to say so also.

Garnel- can you grant that at minimum reform Jews follow the morality of the Torah? Because that is apart of halacha too.

Garnel Ironheart said...

> Garnel- can you grant that at minimum reform Jews follow the morality of the Torah? Because that is apart of halacha too.

No I can't, and I'll tell you why.

Now hang on, I'm not saying they're evil people or that they mean badly. Most of them are decent, upright folks bit is their morality that of the Torah? No.

First of all, I would divide Reform into two parts. The first have membership at a temple somewhere but go twice a year and their Jewishness isn't really a factor in their lives. Surveys tell us this is someething like 90% of Reform. I'm not talking about them.

Of the remainder, I would say (and have said)the following. The Reofmr Jews wants to be moral, wants to think of himself as a good Jew. However, he believes, either through lack of education or self-deception, that true Judaism is secular liberalism with an impotent, all-approving godhead. Thus, Eric Yoffe does not wake up in the morning and say to himself "I wonder how I can transgress God's will today and be a bad Jew." He says "I want to be a good Jew, and I feel the following actions make me a good Jew and God will approve because it makes me happy."
So yes, they follow a moral order but it's not the Torah's because the Torah tells you that even if you agree with one of God's rules, you still follow it, putting your desires second. This is the antithesis of Reform.

SJ said...

If an othodox jew honors his/her parents, an orothodox jew follows that particular halacha, but if a reform jew honors his/her parents, the reform jew is not following that particular halacha?

That does not seem fair.

Garnel Ironheart said...

> If an othodox jew honors his/her parents, an orothodox jew follows that particular halacha, but if a reform jew honors his/her parents, the reform jew is not following that particular halacha?

Years ago on the Jewsweek website one of their regulars wrote a column about "temporal" Orthodoxy. He claimed that anyone could be Orthodox temporarily while they were doing something Orthodox. So a guy visiting his pal in hospital was Orthodox while doing it because he was doing "bikur cholim". Conversely, an Orthodox guy stealing from someone was temporarily not Orthodox because he was sinning.
The article missed an important point. When an Orthodox Jew honours his parents, his intention is to do it because God commanded us to. What's the difference between that and the Reform's actions? When the parents aren't such good parents. Believe me, it's heartbreaking to see how some families fall apart because of bad parenting but there are lots of cases where people (not just Jews, I mean in general) feel no obligation to honour their parents because they feel mom and dad did a lousy job raising them and cost them a lot in life. Chalilah, sometimes they're even right. But for the Orthodox Jew, it doesn't matter. One must honour mother and father. It doesn't mean letting them beat you or ruin your life but a certain amount of respect is demanded. I would say that in a similar situation, the Reformer wouldn't be so honouring. Now according to secular liberalism, he might be entirely justified. But al pi halachah, he couldn't be.
I guess I could break it down to this: Orthodoxy demands that we do a mitzvah whether or not we agree with it, as we submit to God's instructions and judgement. That's what makes it different.