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If Men Were Angels, Government Would Still Be Necessary

In The Federalist No. 51, James Madison famously states that, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” For reasons unknown to myself, Christians of our own day yet repeat this proverb in discussions of statecraft and human nature as though it were obviously true. While I have respect for the aphorism, and I appreciate a counterintuitive maxim, the saying in question is laughably unacquainted with Scripture. Anyone attempting to pass off the claim, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” as a genuine bit of wisdom has never asked two rather obvious questions about angels:

1. Where did the demons come from?

2. What is the difference between an angel and an archangel?

So far as my second question is concerned, I think what Madison meant to say was something like, “If men were angels, no democracy would be necessary,” for while I have an active imagination, the idea of Michael and Gabriel campaigning for their lofty positions and then winning the popular angelic vote (or the angelic electoral college) is simply beyond me. If such a thing is not beyond you, however, I propose we change the old Medieval question about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin to, “How many angels can fit in a voting booth?”

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