Tuesday, October 11, 2016

James Madison -- Federalist 51 and PMO

18th century political theorist James Madison was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, a group of essays about republican (small "r") government on a nation-scale, written and intended to sway public opinion toward ratification of the U.S. constitution.

He is the author of Federalist 51, one of the most famous and cited of the 85 essays. It's about checks and balances in the main, separation of powers, etc.

But, for the PMO, here is a passage from 51 that seems to hit directly on the need for project governance, but governance that has definitive checks and balances -- "auxiliary precautions" that "oblige it to control itself" in Madison's words.

In other words, the quality of governance -- not too much concentrated power and not too many intrusions -- should not be dependent exclusively on good will -- angels governing -- especially where there is a lot at stake that could lead to nefarious acts

"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 internal nor external controls would be necessary.

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the greatest 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 people is no doubt the primary control on government, but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions"
James Madison 
writing in Federalist 51, circa 1780's

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