Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tocqueville - Democracy In America

This week's quote of the week comes from a book I am slowly reading: Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. It is a book about the United States in the 1830s and its strengths and weaknesses.

Tocqueville speculates on the future of democracy in the United States, discussing possible threats to democracy and possible dangers of democracy. These include his belief that democracy has a tendency to degenerate into "soft despotism" as well as the risk of developing a tyranny of the majority.

I will not lie and say it is an easy read, but it is very fascinating to read some of his predictions, some which have played and some that look like they are headed that way. It is really teaching me the history of America from a perspective I have never been taught or even thought of. So even if you do not feel like reading the book, I would highly suggest checking out the wiki page and browse around it and its links.

The following excepts are from Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville ©1835

"Look where you will, you will never find true power among men except in the free concurrence of their wills."

"He(the American) trusts fearlessly in his own powers, which seem to him sufficient for everything. Suppose that an individual thinks of some enterprise, and that enterprise has a direct bearing on the welfare of society; it does not come into his head to appeal to public authority for its help. He publishes his plan, offers to carry it out, summons other individuals to aid his efforts, and personally struggles against all obstacles. No doubt he is often less successful than the state would have been in his place, but in the long run the sum of all private undertakings far surpasses anything the government might have done."
I find it so amazing that people do not understand this concept, that we can do what every we want 10 times better than what our government can do, it just might take us longer. The problem is that our government has their hands deep into our pockets and our decision making. People say that we have to have the government help in this situation or that situation. Tocqueville goes on to say about social prosperity:

I am persuaded that in that case the collective force of the citizens will always be better able to achieve social prosperity than the authority of the government.

He uses China as an example:

China seems to offer the classic example of the sort of social prosperity with which a very centralized administration can provide a submissive people. Travelers tells us that the Chinese have tranquillity without happiness, industry without progress, stability without strength, and material order without public morality. With them society always gets along fairly well, never very well.

Again this book was written in the 1830's, but isn't it sounding more and more like the USA? The faster we wake up and take control of our government is the day we can start the recovery our great nation. Until then, we will keep seeing major corporations, banks and politicians becoming wealthier while the normal people keep having to work harder and harder to make it and get ahead.

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1 comment:

  1. This book sounds interesting, I might have to check it out. Thanks!