July 30, 2018


Ambition Counteracting Ambition: Enduring Principle or Failed Experiment?

The Federalist Society’s Article I Initiative is focused on the critical issue of why the modern Congress is not functioning as the most powerful branch as envisioned by the Framers. In order to help engage new thought and discussion about the proper role of the Congress, the Initiative has just launched its second annual writing contest aimed at younger* thinkers.


Ambition Counteracting Ambition: Enduring Principle or Failed Experiment?


In the annals of republicanism and civil government, few documents surpass the Federalist Papers in terms of influence and exposition. In Federalist 51, James Madison asserted that “ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” The three branches of government – Legislative, Executive, and Judicial – were each imbued with separate, distinct, theoretically balanced powers of government, in the hopes that the ambition of each branch would “check” the ambitions of the other two branches, thereby ensuring that power remains separated and limited. In light of Congress’ modern forbearance within our Constitutional order, was Madison correct that ambition, rightly channeled, is the best preservative of free government? If so, how can the ambition of Congress best be restored to renew the separation of powers as originally envisioned? If not, what superior alternative exists to make government effective, but limited? What factors – be they political, cultural, geographic, etc. – account for this distortion in Madison’s vision?

We hope this contest will cultivate creative ideas that can improve legislative functionality and Constitutional accountability.

Click here to learn more about contest eligibility, rules and how to submit a paper!


*Participants must be age 40 or under.

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