G. Such factions have existed since before the Constitution was written. American politics is a constant struggle, with no long-term winners or gainers. However, it appears Americans have achieved a higher standard of living and a greater accumulation of wealth than the people of most other nations. We have managed this, in general, because the constitutional structure envisioned by the Framers has saved us from ourselves. The best illustrations of the perspective of the Framers are the famous statements made by Madison in No. 51. “Ambition,” said Madison, “must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.” By this, Madison means human beings are rather selfish and self-interested creatures. It was necessary to recognize that fact and use these characteristics to reach something better. Madison continues, using perhaps the most famous words he ever wrote:
It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people, is no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. (No. 51)
H. The “internal” controls to which Madison refers are the checks and balances among each branch of the government—the legislative, the executive, and the judicial—keeping each other within the specified bounds of the Constitution. The “external” controls would be applied by the states, which would ensure the federal government went no further than the Constitution permits. “Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself (No. 51).” In our era, when the federal government is involved in many areas that were formerly the exclusive responsibilities of the state and local governments, the reflections in No. 51 are particularly relevant.