On 4 August 1822, James Madison wrote a letter to W.T. Barry about the importance of popular education and, by inference, the importance of the relationship of the First Amendment to the task of holding an elected government accountable for its actions. He concluded his opening paragraph, setting the tone for the entire letter, by saying, “A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Nowhere is the farce and tragedy feared by James Madison more evident than in the national debate over if, or how much, the defense budget should be cut back as part of our efforts to reduce the deficit. With the defense budget at war with Social Security, Medicare, and needed discretionary spending in education, investments in infrastructure, and elsewhere, it is a tragedy that must be undone if we are to protect our middle class way of life.
Related: A Madison Maintenance referendum audit?.