Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to defend the ratification of the Constitution, The Federalist has long been recognized as a fundamental text in American political thought. Yet the complexity and subtlety of The Federalist as a work often is not sufficiently appreciated. In this Conversation, David Epstein, author of The Political Theory of The Federalist, (1984), shares his perspective on why The Federalist should be taken seriously as a work of political thought, and on its enduring importance. Epstein guides us through central themes including representation, the separation of powers, the roles of interests and ambition in politics, and how popular government can be made to be good government. Throughout, we come to see the complex character of The Federalist—and its sometimes surprising point of view on these fundamental aspects of American government. Finally, Epstein and Kristol consider the ways in which The Federalist, irrespective of our own political choices or policy preferences, remains a vital source for learning to think about politics.

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