Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 223–237 | Cite as

The Invisible Hand of James Madison

  • David Prindle


Scholars have disagreed about how to interpret James Madison's Federalist essays 10 and 51, in which he explains and justifies the underlying principles of the new Constitution. Was Madison the architect of a structure of counterpoise, which would force individuals, interests, and institutions to obstruct one another so as to avoid tyranny, or was he a republican statesman, designing a system that would recruit virtuous citizens to public office? I argue that these clashing interpretations can be reconciled by viewing Madison as a theorist who was applying Adam Smith's economic concepts to political phenomena By putting into practice Smith's insight that competition among self-interested actors can achieve the public interest, Madison incorporated both umpired strife and virtuous citizenship into the meta-principles of the Constitution.

Madison Federalist invisible hand 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abbott, P.(1996) “What's New in the Federalist Papers?” Political Research Quarterly 49(3):525–45.Google Scholar
  2. Adair, D.(1974) '''That Politics May Be Reduced to a Science:' David Hume, James Madison, and the Tenth Federalist." Fame and the Founding Fathers: Essays By Douglas Adair. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.Google Scholar
  3. Barber, B. R. (1979) “The Compromised Republic: Public Purposeless in America.” In Robert H. Horwitz (ed.)pp. 19–38. The Moral Foundations of the American Republic, IInd edition, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.Google Scholar
  4. Blaug, M.(1978) Economic Theory in Retrospect. IIIrd edition. Cambridge, England Cambridge: University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Dahl, R. A.(1956) A Preface to Democratic Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago.Google Scholar
  6. Dempsey, B. W.(1965) “Just Price in a Functioning Economy.” In: Gherity, J.A. (ed.) Economic Thought: A Historical Anthology, pp.4–22. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  7. De Roover, R.(1965)“The Concept of the Just Price: Theory and Economic Policy.” pp. 23–41.In IbidGoogle Scholar
  8. Dougherty, K. L.(2003) “Madison's Theory of Public Goods,” in Kernell, James Madison. pp.41–62.Google Scholar
  9. Downs, A.(1957) An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  10. Epstein, D. F.(1984) The Political Theory of The Federalist. Chicago: University of Chicago.Google Scholar
  11. Fleischacker, S.(2002) “Adam Smith's Reception Among the American Founders, 1776–1790,” The William and Mary Quarterly (October).Google Scholar
  12. Gide, C. and Rist, C.(1948) A History of Economic Doctrine From the Time Of The Physiocrats To The Present Day. Boston: D.C. Heath.Google Scholar
  13. Goldwin, R. A.(1979) “Of Men and Angels: A Search for Morality in the Constitution,” In Horwitz,(ed.) Moral Foundations,op.cit. pp.1–18.Google Scholar
  14. Goodin, R. E.(1996) Institutionalizing the Public Interest: The Defense of Deadlock and Beyond. American Political Science Review 90 (2 June):331–43.Google Scholar
  15. Griswold, C. L. Jr. (1999) Adam Smith and the Virtues of Enlightenment. New York: Cambridge University.Google Scholar
  16. Grofman, B. and Wittman, D.(eds.).(1989) The Federalist Papers and the New Institutionalism. New York: Agathon.Google Scholar
  17. Hamilton, Alexander, James Madison, and John Jay.(1937) The Federalist. New York: Modern Library.Google Scholar
  18. Hofstadter, R.(1948) The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  19. Kernell, S.(ed.) (2003) James Madison: The Theory and Practice of Republican Government. Stanford, California: Stanford University.Google Scholar
  20. Kernell, S.(2003) “The True Principles of Republican Government': Reassessing James Madison's Political Science,” in Kernell, James Madison, pp.92–125.Google Scholar
  21. Ketcham, R.(ed.)(1986) The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates. New York: Mentor.Google Scholar
  22. Koch, A.(1961) Power, Morals, and the Founding Fathers: Essays in the Interpretation of the American Enlightenment. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Lovejoy, A. O.(1961) Reflections on Human Nature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Mansfeld, H. C.(1995)“Self-Interest Rightly Understood.” Political Theory 23(1):48–66.Google Scholar
  25. Matthews, R. K.(1995) If Men Were Angels: James Madison & the Heartless Empire of Reason. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
  26. McConnell, G.(1966) Private Power and American Democracy. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  27. McLean, I.(2003) “Before and After Publius: The Sources and Influences of Madison's Political Thought” in Kernell, James Madison, pp.14–40.Google Scholar
  28. Peterson, M. D.(1974) James Madison: A Biography In His Own Words. Vol. 1. New York: Newsweek.Google Scholar
  29. Pocock, J. G. A.(1975) The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Rakove, J. N.(1996) Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  31. Riley, J.(1990) “American Democracy and Majority Rule.” In: Chapman, J.W. and Wertheimer, A. (eds.) Majorities and Minorities. New York: New York University.Google Scholar
  32. Rosen, G.(1999) American Empire: James Madison and the Problem of Founding. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
  33. Sheldon, G.(2001) The Political Philosophy of James Madison. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.Google Scholar
  34. Smith, A.(1937) An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. New York: Modern Library.Google Scholar
  35. Smith, A.(1982) Lectures On Jurisprudence. Indianapolis: Liberty FundGoogle Scholar
  36. Spengler, J. J.(1940) “The Political Economy of Jefferson, Madison, and Adams,” in Jackson, D. K (ed). American Studies in Honor of William Kenneth Boyd. Durham: Duke University.Google Scholar
  37. Sunstein, C. R.(1993) The Partial Constitution. Cambridge: Harvard University.Google Scholar
  38. Viner, J.(1965) “Power Versus Plenty as Objectives of Foreign Policy in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.” In Gherity,(ed.) Economic Thought, pp. 67–95.Google Scholar
  39. White, M.(1987) Philosophy, the Federalist,and the Constitution. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Wills, G.(1981) Explaining America: the Federalist. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  41. Wilson, F.(1949) The American Political Mind:A Textbook in Political Theory. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  42. Wood, G. S.(1969) The Creation of the American Republic 1776–1787. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  43. Zvesper, J.(1984) “The Madisonian Systems,” Western Political Quarterly 37 (2 July): 236–56.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Prindle
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GovernmentUniversity of TexasAustin TexasUSA

Personalised recommendations