Alexis de Tocqueville A French sociologist and political theorist, he traveled to the United States in 1831 to study its prisons and returned with a wealth of broader observations that he codified in “Democracy in America”. As “Democracy in America” revealed, Tocqueville believed that equality was the great political and social idea of his era, and he thought that the United States offered the most advanced example of equality in action. He admired American individualism but warned that a society of individuals can easily become atomized and paradoxically uniform when “every citizen, being assimilated to all the rest, is lost in the crowd.” He felt that a society of individuals lacked the intermediate social structures—such as those provided by traditional hierarchies—to mediate relations with the state. The result could be a democratic “tyranny of the majority” in which individual rights were compromised.
Here are some of de Tocqueville’s observations. Yes, they are still pertinent.
“Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.”
“Society will develop a new kind of servitude which covers the surface of society with a network of complicated rules, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate. It does not tyrannise but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
“Despotism often presents itself as the repairer of all the ills suffered, the support of just rights, defender of the oppressed, and founder of order.”
“Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.... The subjection of individuals will increase amongst democratic nations, not only in the same proportion as their equality, but in the same proportion as their ignorance.”
“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”
“Any measure that establishes legal charity on a permanent basis and gives it an administrative form thereby creates an idle and lazy class, living at the expense of the industrial and working class.”
“I am deeply convinced that any permanent, regular administrative system whose aim is to provide for the needs of the poor will breed more miseries than it can cure, will deprave the population that it wants to help and comfort, will dry up the sources of savings, will stop the accumulation of capital, will retard the development of trade, and will benumb human industry.”
“Christianity is the companion of liberty in all its conflicts, the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims.”
“However energetically society in general may strive to make all the citizens equal and alike, the personal pride of each individual will always make him try to escape from the common level, and he will form some inequality somewhere to his own profit.”
“[Liberty] considers religion as the safeguard of morality, and morality as the best security of law and the surest pledge of the duration of freedom.”
Don Jans, “The evils of Hell and the forces of Tyranny are inseparable. They promote each other, they support each other, they are family.”
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