As Americans and Granite Staters, we have so much to be thankful for that keeping track of it all can be difficult. Where does one begin? 

Family and friends, health and happiness, clean air and water, mountains and maple syrup, having a buffer of at least three states between us and New Jersey. 

Gratitude often comes from perspective. Surviving documents from the settlers who enjoyed the first Thanksgiving in Massachusetts Bay offer a great dose of it. 

Edward Winslow wrote that the men went hunting and fowling, bringing back “as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the company almost a weeke,” and that natives presented five deer to the company for the feast. 

“And although it be not always so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie,” he wrote.

The food was so plentiful that year that it inspired settlers to send home letters so unbelievable that Gov. William Bradford felt the need to remark that they “were not fained, but true reports.” The food was all gathered, hunted or fished. There was no Market Basket; the Demoulas family hadn’t arrived yet. 

Here’s your perspective: Imagine living in a world in which enduring the hardships of a colonial settler’s life improved your living standards.

For the Pilgrims, living in the undeveloped Massachusetts frontier was an economic step up. Their idea of abundance was a good harvest (provided by providence) and enough wild game to live on for a week. Even with help from the native inhabitants, the first settlers struggled to produce a subsistence-level supply of food.

Before the Enlightenment unleashed the flood of human ingenuity that created modernity, life was like that for pretty much everyone.

As Enlightenment ideas eroded rigid social hierarchies and unleashed the brainpower of the lower classes (and created a large middle class), an explosion of innovation led to historically unprecedented gains in food productivity.

In 1600, 20 years before the Mayflower landed, the United Kingdom produced enough food to supply its population with 1,877 calories per person per day, according to the data website Our World In Data. That figure was 1,381 in the year 1,300. So over nearly 300 years, the UK gained about 500 calories per person per day.

By 1700, the UK produced 2,229 calories per person per day, for an increase of 352 calories in just 100 years, a huge improvement. 

But in the next 318 years, the UK’s food productivity exploded. By 2018, the country produced a 3,344 calories per person per day, a stunning 50% increase in just over 300 years. 

The United States produced 2,952 calories per person per day in 1800, the year Thomas Jefferson beat John Adams for the presidency. That was about 500 more than the UK, 700 more than Germany and 1,100 more than France. And the industrial revolution hadn’t taken off yet. 

By 2018, the United States was producing a world-leading 3,782 calories per person per day. 

“Almost all that ordinary people used and consumed in the 17th century would have been very familiar to people living a thousand or even a couple of thousand years earlier,” Max Roser explains. “Average incomes (as measured by GDP per capita) in England between the year 1270 and 1650 were £1,051 when measured in today’s prices.”

Then came the Enlightenment, and the great enrichment that followed. 

As Roser puts it, “an average person in the UK today has a higher income in two weeks than an average person in the past had in an entire year. Since the total sum of incomes is the total sum of production this also means that the production of the average person in two weeks today is equivalent to the production of the average person in an entire year in the past. There is just one truly important event in the economic history of the world, the onset of economic growth. This is the one transformation that changed everything.”

This is why the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy puts such a high priority on economic growth. Without it, the world as we know it would not exist. Neglect or smother it, and our descendants will live worse, not better, lives than we do. 

Freedom creates opportunity, which creates abundance, which leads to statistics like this: In the United States today, there are two job openings for every unemployed person. In New Hampshire, there are three job openings for every unemployed person. 

Four hundred years ago, we were in a desperate, daily search for enough calories to survive the next few days. Now, we’re in a desperate, daily search for ways to convince people to stop eating so much.

In the United States, and much of the rest of the world today, prosperity and abundance are so common that they’ve become the default expectation for the vast majority of the population. For that, we will be forever grateful. 

New Hampshire has lost its title as the most economically free state in the union. The top spot this year goes to Florida, by a hair, according to the 2022 Economic Freedom of North America report released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

Florida scored 7.94 out of 10 in this year’s report (up from 7.78 last year), beating out second-place New Hampshire (7.84).

Economic freedom—the ability of individuals to make their own economic decisions about what to buy, where to work and whether to start a business—is fundamental to prosperity.

“As we’ve pointed out for years, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and other states are serious about gaining a competitive advantage over New Hampshire,” said Andrew Cline, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy. “If we want to have a New Hampshire Advantage 20 years from now, we have to stay focused on expanding economic freedom for all Granite Staters. If we rest on our past accomplishments, we will be left behind.”

Enhancing government control over individuals’ economic choices takes us in the opposite direction. But just as importantly, failing to move quickly enough to enhance economic opportunity for Granite Staters can harm New Hampshire too, as more aggressive states pass us by.

“When governments allow markets to decide what’s produced, how it’s produced and how much is produced, citizens enjoy greater levels of economic freedom,” said Fred McMahon, the Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom at the Fraser Institute and co-author of this year’s Economic Freedom of North America report, which measures government spending, taxation and labor market restrictions using data from 2020, the latest year of available comparable data.

Rounding out the top five freest states are South Dakota (3rd), Texas and Tennessee (tied for 4th). At the other end of the index, New York is once again the least-free state (4.25) followed by California (49th), Hawaii (48th) and Vermont (47th). For the first time, the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico was included in the index—its score in this first preliminary effort was 2.04. The least-free state’s score was more than twice as high.

Across North America, the least-free quartile of jurisdictions (including Canada and Mexico) had an average per-capita income of just $2,160 compared to $54,927 for the most-free quartile.

“Hundreds of independent studies have produced overwhelming evidence that higher levels of economic freedom are associated with more opportunity, more prosperity, greater economic growth and more jobs,” said Dean Stansel, report co-author and economist at Southern Methodist University.

The Economic Freedom of North America report (also co-authored by José Torra, the head of research at the Mexico City-based Caminos de la Libertad, and Ángel Carrión-Tavárez, director of research and policy at the Instituto de Libertad Económica (ILE) in Puerto Rico) is an offshoot of the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World index, the result of more than a quarter century of work by more than 60 scholars including three Nobel laureates.

The report can be read here: EFNA-2022-US-POST

Detailed tables for each country and subnational jurisdiction can be found at www.fraserinstitute.org.

One of the more important New Hampshire stories of the 2022 mid-term elections happened in Massachusetts, where voters approved a so-called “millionaires tax.” That vote represents a pivot back toward the old “Taxachusetts” days when Bay State lawmakers disregarded the interstate competitive effects of their tax policies.

When it takes effect, the “millionaires tax” will levy a punitive 4% tax rate on incomes of $1 million or more. That is on top of the state’s existing 5% income tax. This 80% tax increase for people who earn $1 million or more is likely to motivate a lot of people to seek shelter in places that don’t treat them as cash cows to be milked for the benefit of others.

Massachusetts abuts just one state that does not view people as resources to be exploited. That would be the live-free-or-die state. Accordingly, New Hampshire’s population of millionaires — and people who aspire to that status — should increase a bit in the near future.

The Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University estimated that the new tax will raise $1.3 billion next year for the People’s Republic of Massachusetts. That figure would be $2.1 billion, the center estimates, but tax avoidance strategies, including cross-border migration by high-income individuals, will cut the expected revenue by $800 million. 

“Together, cross-border moves and tax avoidance would reduce millionaires tax revenue by roughly 35 percent,” the center concluded.

The $1.3 billion figure represents about 2.5% of the Massachusetts state budget. Advocates argued that the state needed this additional money, even though revenues were so high in the last fiscal year that the state was required by law to return $2.94 billion of state surplus to taxpayers.

This was a revenue grab, not a necessary tax increase. Legislators (who initiated the proposal) wanted more money, but didn’t want to raise general taxes, so they singled out an unpopular minority for excessive taxation. 

Massachusetts residents who expect this revenue to go to roads and schools might be disappointed. The money goes into the general fund, not specifically to those causes. The Boston Globe observed that the narrower-than-expected margin of victory indicates a suspicion among voters that legislators will squander the money. 

“That the measure passed by such a narrow margin — about 52 percent to 48 percent — says more about voters’ mistrust of the Legislature to actually follow through on spending those tax dollars wisely than it does their concern for the state’s wealthier citizens,” The Globe wrote in an editorial after the vote. 

That’s not the only cause for concern. Massachusetts now has a graduated, not a flat, income tax. That creates precedent — and an invitation — for the introduction of other rates above 5%. 

It also represents a shift away from Massachusetts’ efforts to shed its “Taxachusetts” reputation and make itself more economically competitive in the Northeast. If it continues to move in this direction, New Hampshire could enjoy some of the spillover effects, in the form of fleeing investors, entrepreneurs and capital. 

In New England, the poster child for bad tax-and-spend governance is no longer Massachusetts. It’s Connecticut. And we can learn from the Nutmeg State’s nutty management.

Connecticut used to have relatively low taxes and a strong economy. Not anymore. Our friends at The Yankee Institute in Connecticut have chronicled the state’s decline in a recent report titled “Left Behind: Connecticut’s Lost Decade.”

Among its sad revelations:

  • Between 2012 and 2019, the Connecticut economy shrank during 13 of 32 quarters. The US economy shrank in only one (2014 Q1). Compared to other states, Connecticut posted the fourth-worst GDP growth between 2010 and 2019, and the worst among states where GDP didn’t decline.
  • Between 2011 and 2019, the adjusted gross income (AGI) for all U.S. taxpayers increased by 43 percent, but Connecticut’s rose just 23 percent—the third-lowest growth rate.
  • Connecticut in 2019 had 12,190 individuals and households (tax filers) with adjusted gross incomes of $1 million or more, a 28 percent increase from 2011 when it had 9,493. This was the third-lowest rate of increase, with only Oklahoma and West Virginia adding income millionaires at a slower pace. Nationally, the U.S. added about 250,000 income millionaires, an 82 percent increase. 
  • After more than keeping pace with the country in 2010, Connecticut each year created jobs at a slower rate than the nation. From January 2011 to December 2016, Connecticut increased private-sector employment by just 5.6 percent, less than half of the 13.4 percent gain that had occurred nationally.
  • Connecticut lost more residents to other states than it attracted every year from 2003 to 2020.

Warning of the consequences of raising taxes on high-income earners, the Pioneer Institute in Boston recently pointed out that Connecticut once had lower taxes than Massachusetts, and a stronger economy. 

But as Massachusetts shed the “Taxachusetts” label by cutting tax rates, Connecticut went on a taxing binge that brought its total state and local tax burden to the second-highest in the nation.

  • Between 2008-2020, Connecticut ranked 49th in private-sector wage and job growth. 
  • From 2012-2018, Connecticut lost more high-income taxpayers per capita than any other state.
  • Connecticut raised its top income tax rate again in 2015, and in 2016 the amount of tax revenue it raised from the top 100 taxpayers fell by 45%. 

Politicians and activists often take a good economy for granted. They assume that growth and innovation are constants. This is a mistake. Connecticut shows how you really can strangle an economy with bad policies. 

It’s fall fair season, which in New England is known as the most wonderful time of the year. 

Why do people love fall fairs so much?

Because they’re not really fairs. They’re markets. 

And markets make people happy.

The thrill of a fall fair is enhanced by the crisp, autumn air, the foliage, the drive through the countryside to get there, and the sense of excitement that comes with anticipating sweet treats, games, rides, and the bustle of a happy crowd.

But those are all the whipped cream on top of the steaming mug of cider.

The real attraction is the experience of participating in a miniature (and temporary) marketplace.

For all the buzz and excitement, a fall fair is really a self-contained venue for the selling of goods and services. (That the goods and services are peddled by traveling carnies is just a bonus.)

Whether you go in pursuit of funnel cakes and caramel apples or rides, games and other amusements, once you enter the fair you’re basically shopping. 

You run around deciding whether to buy a treat, a souvenir or an experience. You weigh your options, decide what purchases are worth the price, and try to maximize the time and money you have at your disposal. 

There’s no way around it. You’re shopping. 

But it’s shopping with extra stimulation added. (See paragraph five.) 

A big reason we enjoy it so much is that the vendors have learned over the years exactly how to make us happy. 

And after all, that’s the primary objective of any market. 

Ultimately, a market can be defined as strangers inventing ways to profit by making others happy. 

The popcorn peddlers and midway hawkers don’t have any idea who you are. Wherever you came from, whatever you did before, wherever you go after, they don’t care. They have no idea what your politics are, or whether you’ve lived a life of crime or virtue. 

And yet they’re dead set on making you extremely, giddily happy.

Because if you leave happy, they profit, not just this fall but next fall and the fall after that and so on. 

Because they’ve become very good at making us happy, each year when they open the gate, we open our wallets. 

And when we’re all full of cider and candy apples and we’re trying not to fall asleep on the way home, we wish the whole experience would come around more than once a year — so we could repeat the joy of that hours-long series of commercial transactions more often.

If you’ve ever thought about complaining that your favorite fair has been commercialized, well, we hate to break it to you, but the whole fair is an entirely commercial enterprise from start to finish. 

And that’s exactly why you love it so much.  

Gov. Chris Sununu has proposed tapping $60 million of the state budget surplus to give $100 rebates to electricity ratepayers. The plan requires approval by the Legislature and could come up for a vote this Thursday when legislators return to take up bills vetoed by the governor.

In the spring, a gas tax holiday was floated by both Republicans and Democrats. At the time, we wrote that a gas tax holiday was just a holiday from reality. A state-funded rebate on customer electricity bills is reminiscent of a gas tax holiday. Both offer a small dose of relief for individuals without addressing the underlying cause of rising prices, and both come with substantial opportunity costs.

The opportunity cost is best seen in context of the state surplus from which the spending would be drawn.

Legislators have already spent 60% of the state’s record $430.1 million budget surplus. 

A change in the way businesses apportion net operating losses, also passed this year, could consume another $42 million of the surplus.

With $261.7 million of the state budget surplus spent, the proposed $60 million in electricity rebates would bring the total to $321.7 million. That would represent 75% of the total surplus.

If the $42 million from the apportionment change is included, the sum rises to $363.7 million, or 85%.

So, after boasting that their frugality left the state with a record budget surplus, Republicans would have to explain to voters how they spent 75%-85% of that surplus in nine months. 

By any measure, that would be an impressive spending spree. 

If legislators simply want to transfer a portion of the state surplus to consumers, electric utility rebates represent one way to do that. We’re certainly not against returning money to the private sector. 

However, the state does have obligations, and surplus revenue can be used in a way that returns money to taxpayers in the long run while simultaneously reducing the cost of state government. 

As we pointed out in May, the state’s unfunded pension obligations cost taxpayers money. Using the surplus to pay down those obligations reduces state debt service, saves taxpayers money, lowers the overall cost of government, and reduces a debt owed by taxpayers.

That’s not as politically attractive as a utility bill rebate. But it would achieve several conservative goals while leaving the state in a better financial position. 

Energy shortages in California and Europe have prompted a revival of interest in Nuclear power. And who gets the credit? Environmental activists, naturally. 

Why even environmental activists are supporting nuclear power today,” National Public Radio gushed last week. 

The few environmentalists highlighted in the story deserve credit for taking such an unpopular position within the movement. NPR even acknowledges their pariah status.

“We felt like we were on an island all by ourselves,” Mothers for Nuclear activist Kristin Zaitz said. “We had people wishing that we would die, wishing we would get cancer…making weird videos about us that made me feel like, am I unsafe, is my family unsafe?”

This aired on NPR, which is progress. Also progress: NPR accurately reported nuclear power’s superior record on safety and pollution:

“In terms of deaths from accidents or pollution, nuclear is far safer than coal or natural gas – the largest sources of electricity in the U.S.

“Diablo Canyon got a boost last year when researchers from MIT and Stanford said keeping the plant open until 2035 would cut carbon emissions from California’s power sector by more than 10% and save $2.6 billion in electricity costs.”

This is welcome, yet these assessments of nuclear power’s safety and environmental record aren’t exactly news. 

You might not know that, though, if you listened to most environmental activists, who’ve spent decades wrongly portraying nuclear power as more dangerous and worse for the environment than other options. 

Environmental activists were the ones who pushed for Germany to close its perfectly good nuclear power plants, making the country more reliant on Russian oil and gas. 

They pushed for California to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, without which California probably would be suffering blackouts right now.

They pushed for the closure of Vermont Yankee, which resulted in increased carbon emissions in New England.

And they worked tirelessly to close Maine Yankee, Connecticut Yankee, Yankee Rowe, Indian Point and other nuclear power plants in the Northeast and throughout the United States.

To the delight of environmental activists, the Northeast has lost more than a handful of nuclear plants in recent years, mostly because it became uneconomical to continue running them (something environmentalists tried hard to ensure).

  • From 1972-1996, the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant was the largest power generator in the state. But environmental activists opposed it from the start an harassed it with an ongoing series of ballot initiative and bills to shut it down. It closed for cost reasons. 
  • From 1972-2014, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant generated power in Vernon, Vt. Environmentalists worked the entire time to get it closed, and they succeeded even though the plant had been operating safely and had just had its license renewed through 2032. The plant’s closure resulted in an increase in New England carbon emissions as nuclear power was replaced with natural gas. 
  • From 1960-1992, the Yankee Rowe plant operated in Rowe, Mass. It was protested by environmental activists. Its owners shut it down rather than pay for federally mandated testing that was demanded by activists.
  • From 1972-2019, the Pilgrim nuclear power plant operated in Plymouth, Mass. Activists pressed for its closure all along, and the plant owner ultimately shut it down for economic reasons in 2019. Its power generation was replaced by natural gas. Afterwards, predictably, New England carbon emissions increased. 
  • From 1968-1996, the Connecticut Yankee nuclear power plant provided low-carbon power to Connecticut. Environmentalist sought its closure. This plant was cited for safety violations, though the Nuclear Energy Institute says the site of the decommissioned plant is safe enough to turn into farmland. It was closed for cost reasons.
  • From 1962-2021, the Indian Point nuclear power plant generated power in Buchanan, N.Y. Environmental activists challenged the plant’s continued operation, and the State of New York threw up numerous legal obstacles to the plant’s license renewal, making renewal too costly for the owner to pursue. New York carbon emissions increased after Indian Point’s closure, of course. 
  • And then there’s New Hampshire’s Seabrook Station, which was supposed to open in 1974. Environmental activists successfully delayed its opening until 1990. Since it was first proposed in the 1970s, it has been protested continuously by anti-nuclear activists, who still want to shut it down. They successfully prevented the plant’s second reactor from being built. By delaying and shrinking the plant, activists managed to increase New England carbon emissions and prolong the use of oil and coal in New Hampshire.

State subsidies for renewables, which artificially suppress wholesale energy market prices, coupled inexpensive natural gas helped make nuclear power plants less economically viable.

Environmental activists gleefully contributed to nuclear power’s negative economic and regulatory environment by misleading the public and elected officials about nuclear power’s safety and environmental record, pushing to tilt the playing field in favor of renewables, and harassing plant owners with lawsuits and protests. 

It’s nice to see the small group of pro-nuclear environmental activists get credit for being right when the rest of the green movement has been shamefully, dangerously wrong about nuclear power from the start. 

But that’s only a small part of the story. The bigger story is how the environmental movement put itself on the wrong end of one of the biggest fights of its existence and wound up hurting the environment as a result.

And all the while, they sought to delegitimize the activists, policy wonks, industry experts, academics and researchers who told the truth. That’s the story that needs to be told. 

Hanover could be the canary in the coal mine for housing-induced labor shortages in New Hampshire. 

The town has canceled its annual Fall Fest and its after-school program for grades three through five because it can’t find enough staff, the Valley News reported.  

Why can’t the town find enough staff? The town manager cited the region’s housing shortage.

“We’ll have someone interested in a position and then they can’t find housing or can’t find childcare,” he said. 

Hanover’s severe housing shortage has driven prices so high that government employees often have to live out of town because they can’t afford any of the homes in the town for which they work. 

Hanover was New Hampshire’s sixth most housing-restricted community in our study of local land use regulations, published last fall. 

Without relief from overly restrictive planning and zoning ordinances, more New Hampshire communities are likely to experience similar service cuts. Local regulations that make it difficult to build anything but higher-end housing can create or worsen labor shortages by driving out middle- and lower-income residents. 

This exact scenario is playing out in higher-cost communities nationwide. New Hampshire is not immune. We’ll probably see more stories like this before voters are prompted to act.

Students are heading back to school, and based on media reports you might expect them to be sitting in classrooms without a teacher. News organizations nationwide have published stories raising alarms about dire school staffing shortages.

So why do hiring and staffing data tell a completely different story?

The New Hampshire Department of Education announced in July that teacher credential renewals were up this year, not down. 

The state renewed 8,350 educator credentials through mid-July 2022, vs. 8,232 at the same point last year. Since 2020, the number of credentialed teachers in the state has increased by about 300.

Nationwide, researchers also find no evidence of a dire teacher shortage.

There is no national teacher shortage,” The Atlantic reported last week. 

The magazine cited news stories blaring alarmist headlines about a national teacher shortage:

The Washington Post has warned of a “catastrophic teacher shortage.” ABC World News Tonight called it a new “growing crisis,” and Rebecca Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, called it a “five-alarm” fire. 

And yet, reporter Derek Thompson checked the numbers and found…

In parts of the country, schools are struggling to hire staff. But they are mostly the same districts that have been struggling for years to fill the same positions, such as substitute and special-ed roles. In the big picture, the new and catastrophic national teacher shortage is neither newly catastrophic nor, in any meaningful sense, national. Under one interpretation of the murky data, the country might even have a teacher surplus on its hands, because so many parents have pulled their children out of public schools since the pandemic began.

Researchers who study education data debunked the media narrative.

“There has not been a mass exodus of teachers across the country,” Heather Schwartz, a senior policy researcher at the Rand Corporation, told me. Chad Aldeman, who writes about education finance at Edunomics Lab, agrees. “The public narrative has gotten way ahead of the data and is even misleading in most cases,” he told me.

A new study from the Annenberg Institute at Brown University has found that teacher turnover rates are about the same as they were before the pandemic. 

“After roughly a half-decade of steady growth, total public school jobs decreased by roughly 9% through May 2020. The initial drop represented more than twice the number of positions erased during the financial crisis of 2008,” education news website The 74 reported on Monday.

“But the data also suggested that those positions were disproportionately cut from non-teaching ranks. Occupational records from both national and state sources showed measured declines among nurses, administrative support staff, paraprofessionals and other predominantly non-instructional employees.”

So, if there’s no national teacher shortage, and no statewide teacher shortage, why have there been so many stories that give the opposite impression?

Journalists are trained to gather anecdotes, not data. They interview a few people in a few districts who say it’s been really hard to find staff. And — voila! — there’s a big shortage. 

Unfortunately, journalists are less inclined to double check anecdotes that appear to confirm conventional wisdom or a generally left-of-center narrative. And most journalists aren’t well trained to gather and analyze data on their own. 

That leads to a lot of bad reporting about trends. Maybe some reporters need to go back to school too. 

 

I have nothing further to recommend at this time but the cultivation of a Spirit of Unanimity and Harmony, of Candor and liberality of Sentiments among ourselves and the people at large, that while (as I trust) we are all aiming to promote the general welfare, the different Sentiments that may be Entertained of the best mode to be adopted for accomplishing that desirable End, may not interrupt that Harmony and Goodwill that is so essentially necessary to the Happiness of all Public Societies.

— President (of New Hampshire) Josiah Bartlett, to New Hampshire General Court, June 3, 1791

Josiah Bartlett was a committed Patriot and an enthusiastic political scrapper. No one would call the bold and opinionated Bartlett a squish. His passion for liberty was so revered that he was made chief justice of the state Supreme Court despite having no legal training (he was a doctor).

He had been a captain of militia, a member of the Continental Congress, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and president of New Hampshire (the term for governor before 1792). His bona fides as an ideological fighter were about as solid as they come.

And yet, once New Hampshire had its own republican form of government, he urged “the cultivation of a Spirit of Unanimity and Harmony, of Candor and liberality of Sentiments” among politicians and the people.

Like so many other Founders, Bartlett understood the seductive power of factions — and the danger that factions posed to the young republic.

George Washington warned future Americans of them in his Farewell Address:

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual, and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.

At this point in American history, we have a serious faction problem. Political partisanship is driving Americans so far apart that most members of both major parties believe their political opponents are not just wrong, but immoral, a recent Pew poll has found:

Perhaps the most striking change is the extent to which partisans view those in the opposing party as immoral. In 2016, about half of Republicans (47%) and slightly more than a third of Democrats (35%) said those in the other party were a lot or somewhat more immoral than other Americans. Today, 72% of Republicans regard Democrats as more immoral, and 63% of Democrats say the same about Republicans.

The pattern is similar with other negative partisan stereotypes: 72% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats say people in the opposing party are more dishonest than other Americans. Fewer than half in each party said this six years ago. Large majorities in both parties also describe those in the other party as more closed-minded than other Americans (83% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans say this), and this sentiment also has increased in recent years.

The Framers of the Constitution (and of the state constitutions) gave us a system of government in which factions are cooled by putting them in a big room together where everyone expects them to solve their problems by talking.

But factionalism is derailing those conversations.

How do you treat with goodwill political opponents you (or your voters) assume are evil merely because of their party affiliation?

Madison called factionalism “this dangerous vice.” He thought the Constitution’s structure would curb it. He couldn’t have anticipated the rise of social media, celebrity culture and other factors that have worked to counter the incentive structure he created.

Like Madison, Josiah Bartlett worried about the pull of faction. That’s why he encouraged legislators to dispense with factional thoughts when entering into their public work. His wish was not to have absolutely unanimity of thought, or even general agreement on issues. It was simply that our political disagreements be guided by a spirit of goodwill and “liberality of sentiments.”

Without that, the “dangerous vice” would tear at the fabric of the republic, and that would threaten the entire experiment.

Factions are natural. Republican government isn’t. For the artificial to triumph over the natural, people have to accept that this human-created system is preferable to a state of nature in which the powerful rule, even if it sometimes produces results they don’t like.

The Founders understood this trade-off. Today, it seems, many Americans need to be reminded of its value, even if they think the other side is a bunch of malevolent dunces.