From Philosopher-Kings to Constitutions to Star Trek to Steer into the Skid: The problem of factions and a possible solution (or a very bad idea — you tell me)

Ellen Beth Gill
9 min readSep 11, 2022

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. James Madison, Federalist Paper #10.

Madison described factions (translated by me into modern conversational English) as a group of citizens united and motivated by interests or passions adverse to the rights of other groups or the interests of the community. Even if you avoid the political musings of Eighteenth Century rich, white, enslaving men, Madison was right about the evils of factions, if not right about the cure.

We’re living under the tyranny of factions right now in the USA. We have Christian theocrats, racists, white supremacists, Nazis, neo-Nazis, fascists, capitalists, neo-liberals, big weapon, big gun, big insurance, big pharma, other big business, and small business that thinks it’s big business but local. We have stans of one foreign government or another and stans of the pomp, pageantry, and fashion of foreign monarchs and celebrities. All these groups are free to align to create a superpower of mean and stupid.

Madison deemed the tendency toward faction natural and inevitable, but, arguably, our current state of faction was intentionally engineered by Twentieth and Twenty-First Century rich, white, enslaving, racist men. They did it with religion, race, and money, and they did it to get even richer. Thom Hartmann wrote an interesting article detailing how they accomplished it.

The antidote to factions is elusive. Many have attempted to find it and all failed. Thom Hartmann suggests the necessary cure is voting for the Democrats, and I agree that it’s probably necessary given the state of the Trumpublican Party. Still, I don’t see it as a long-term remedy because the Democrats aren’t much better at managing factions, viewing people as buckets of interests based on wealth, education, race, and gender. As I see it, Republicans are the problem, and Democrats seed them.

Pondering girl, by me, graphite, 2022

The Eighteenth Century Antidote to Factions

Ellen Beth Gill