James Madison and the Future of Limited Government

By John Samples | Go to book overview

3.
Madison's Constitutional Vision: The
Legacy of Enumerated Powers
Roger Pilon

In reflecting on James Madison and the future of limited government, the first challenge is to understand Madison's constitutional vision. That would be easier to do had modern political sensibilities not strayed so far from it—had we not become so accustomed to effectively unlimited government and indifferent, largely, to constitutional restraints on the size and scope of government. The second challenge is to understand how and why the limited government Madison sought to secure became the vast Leviathan we know today. Indeed, given the current reach of federal power, Madison's promise in Federalist No. 45 that the powers of the new government would be “few and defined” strikes the modern ear as not a little quaint. At the outset, therefore, we have to grant that Madison's legacy is less than certain, even as we draw from it to speculate about the future of limited government.

To say that Madison's legacy is uncertain is not to say, of course, that he left us nothing. Quite the contrary, although the federal government today is far larger than he imagined it would be, Madison's constitutional vision has doubtless spared us the kind of oppressive and even tyrannical government we've seen so often around the world since his plan was first unveiled. In fact, more than 200 years after it was first erected, most of Madison's structure is still standing. Looking over the events of that period, that is no small accomplishment. On balance, therefore, one would have to say that the legacy of Madison's vision has been relatively stable government, even if more government than Madison would have wanted.

To learn from that mixed legacy, it will be useful to begin with a brief overview of Madison's vision, focusing in particular on his constitutional doctrine of enumerated powers. Our main concern in that will be with Madison's conception of political legitimacy,

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James Madison and the Future of Limited Government
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes *
  • 1 - Madison's Angels 9
  • 2 - Recapturing Madison's Constitution: Federalism Without the Blank Check 13
  • Notes *
  • 3 - Madison's Constitutional Vision: the Legacy of Enumerated Powers 25
  • Notes *
  • 4 - The Novelty of James Madison's Constitutionalism 43
  • Notes *
  • 5 - The Madisonian Legacy: a Jeffersonian Perspective 59
  • Notes *
  • 6 - Madison and Multiculturalism: Group Representation, Group Rights, and Constitutionalism 71
  • Notes *
  • 7 - Indians in Madison's Constitutional Order 121
  • Notes *
  • 8 - James Madison on Religion and Politics 135
  • Notes *
  • 9 - James Madison on Religion and Politics: Conservative, Anti-Rationalist, Libertarian 147
  • Notes *
  • 10 - Madison and the Revival of Pure Democracy 165
  • Notes *
  • 11 - The Rule of Law and Freedom in Emerging Democracies: a Madisonian Perspective 191
  • Notes *
  • 12 - Governance Beyond the Nation State: James Madison on Foreign Policy and “universal Peace” 213
  • Notes *
  • List of Contributors 229
  • Index 233
  • Cato Institute *
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