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Thread: Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America

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    Thumbs Up Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America

    Alexis de Tocqueville's observations of American society are simply fascinating. He compiled many of his thoughts, beliefs and general observations in his book "Democracy in America." Though it was written in the 1830s, his writings should be widely read today.

    "Democracy In America" is available online now. Everyone should definitely check this site out. I found the second volume to be the most interesting.

    Democracy In America- Hypertext
    Last edited by Abby Normal; Saturday, February 14th, 2004 at 08:34 AM.

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    Post Re: Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America

    Quote Originally Posted by Adelaide
    Alexis de Tocqueville's observations of American society are simply fascinating. He compiled many of his thoughts, beliefs and general observations in his book "Democracy in America." Though it was written in the 1830s, his writings should be widely read today.

    "Democracy In America" is available online now. Everyone should definitely check this site out. I found the second volume to be the most interesting.

    Democracy In America- Hypertext
    From Normandy he was some kind of a prophet. He described also the modern process of centralization who started in the "ancient régime" and who led to the Revolution (and subsequently to the secularisation of France).
    "A man that can't laugh at himself should be given a mirror"
    Irish Proverb

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    Post Re: Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America

    Quote Originally Posted by sciath
    From Normandy he was some kind of a prophet. He described also the modern process of centralization who started in the "ancient régime" and who led to the Revolution (and subsequently to the secularisation of France).
    He was a prophet as well? Tell me more!

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    Post Re: Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America

    Let us now imagine a community so organized by nature or by its constitution that it can support the transitory action of bad laws, and that it can await, without destruction, the general tendency of its legislation: we shall then conceive how a democratic government, notwithstanding its faults, may be best fitted to produce the prosperity of this community. This is precisely what has occurred in the United States; and I repeat, what I have before remarked, that the great advantage of the Americans consists in their being able to commit faults which they may afterwards repair.
    Thats a good point. I just cant await that the USA and EU-ropa repair all their faults...

    The men who are entrusted with the direction of public affairs in the United States are frequently inferior, in both capacity and morality, to those whom an aristocracy would raise to power. But their interest is identified and mingled with that of the majority of their fellow citizens.
    Very true:

    The English aristocracy is perhaps the most liberal that has ever existed, and no body of men has ever, uninterruptedly, furnished so many honorable and enlightened individuals to the government of a country. It cannot escape observation, however, that in the legislation of England the interests of the poor have often been sacrificed to the advantages of the rich, and the rights of the majority to the privileges of a few. The result is that England at the present day combines the extremes of good and evil fortune in the bosom of her society; and the miseries and privations of her poor almost equal her power and renown.

    The country is lost to their senses; they can discover it neither under its own nor under borrowed features, and they retire into a narrow and unenlightened selfishness. They are emancipated from prejudice without having acknowledged the empire of reason; they have neither the instinctive patriotism of a monarchy nor the reflecting patriotism of a republic; but they have stopped between the two in the midst of confusion and distress

    Nothing is more embarrassing in the ordinary intercourse of life than this irritable patriotism of the Americans. A stranger may be well inclined to praise many of the institutions of their country, but he begs permission to blame some things in it, a permission that is inexorably refused. America is therefore a free country in which, lest anybody should be hurt by your remarks, you are not allowed to speak freely of private individuals or of the state, of the citizens or of the authorities, of public or of private undertakings, or, in short, of anything at all except, perhaps, the climate and the soil; and even then Americans will be found ready to defend both as if they had co-operated in producing them.
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    Last edited by Agrippa; Monday, February 16th, 2004 at 11:01 PM.
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    Post Re: Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America

    Under its sway the grandeur is not in what the public administration does, but in what is done without it or outside of it. Democracy does not give the people the most skillful government, but it produces what the ablest governments are frequently unable to create: namely, an all-pervading and restless activity, a superabundant force, and an energy which is inseparable from it and which may, however unfavorable circumstances may be, produce wonders. These are the true advantages of democracy.
    Here I think he partially confused "Democracy" with the Protestant labour ethic of the Anglo-Calvinistic people and their liberal and anarchic way of organizing an economy.
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    Thumbs Down Faking It : A Brief Textbook Of American Democracy

    http://www.fredoneverything.net/DemocracyText.shtml

    Faking It
    A Brief Textbook Of American Democracy




    Monday, January 19, 2004

    While the United States is freer and more democratic than many countries, it is not, I think, either as free or as democratic as we are expected to believe, and becomes rapidly less so. Indeed we seem to be specialists in maintaining the appearance without having the substance. Regarding the techniques of which, a few thoughts:

    (1) Free speech does not exist in America. We all know what we can’t say and about whom we can’t say it.

    (2) A democracy run by two barely distinguishable parties is not in fact a democracy.

    A parliamentary democracy allows expression of a range of points of view: An ecological candidate may be elected, along with a communist, a racial-separatist, and a libertarian. These will make sure their ideas are at least heard. By contrast, the two-party system prevents expression of any ideas the two parties agree to suppress. How much open discussion do you hear during presidential elections of, for example, race, immigration, abortion, gun control, and the continuing abolition of Christianity? These are the issues most important to most people, yet are quashed.

    The elections do however allow allow the public a sense of participation while having the political importance of the Superbowl.

    (3) Large jurisdictions discourage autonomy. If, say, educational policy were set in small jurisdictions, such as towns or counties, you could buttonhole the mayor and have a reasonable prospect of influencing your children’s schools. If policy is set at the level of the state, then to change it you have to quit your job, marshal a vast campaign costing a fortune, and organize committees in dozens of towns. It isn’t practical. In America, local jurisdictions set taxes on real estate and determine parking policy. Everything of importance is decided remotely.

    (4) Huge unresponsive bureaucracies somewhere else serve as political flywheels, insulating elected officials from the whims of the populace. Try calling the federal Department of Education from Wyoming. Its employees are anonymous, salaried, unaccountable, can’t be fired, and don’t care about you. Many more of them than you might believe are affirmative-action hires and probably can’t spell Wyoming. You cannot influence them in the slightest. Yet they influence you.

    (5) For our increasingly centralized and arbitrary government, the elimination of potentially competitive centers of power has been, and is, crucial. This is one reason for the aforementioned defanging of the churches: The faithful recognize a power above that of the state, which they might choose to obey instead of Washington. The Catholic Church in particular, with its inherent organization, was once powerful. It has been brought to heel.

    Similarly the elimination of states’ rights, now practically complete, put paid to another potential source of opposition. Industry, in the days of J. P. Morgan politically potent, has been tamed by regulation and federal contracts. The military in the United States has never been politically active. The government becomes the only game available.

    And is determined to remain so. Any attempt to weaken the central power will arouse powerful hostility. For example, the persecution of those engaged in home-schooling has nothing to with concern for the young. The public schools have little interest in education and for the most part seem to have little idea of what it is. The hostility to home-schooling is simply the response of those with a monopoly of power to the specter of superior competition.

    The elections do however allow the public a sense of democratic participation while having the political importance of the Superbowl. That is, elections serve chiefly to keep the people from noticing the absence of democracy. This is a remarkable concept, of great governmental utility.

    (6) Paradoxically, increasing the power of groups who cannot threaten the government strengthens the government: They serve as counterbalances to those who might challenge the central authority. For example, the white and male-dominated culture of the United States, while not embodied in an identifiable organization, for some time remained strong. The encouragement of dissension by empowerment of blacks, feminists, and homosexuals, and the importing of inassimilable minorities, weakens what was once the cultural mainstream.

    (7) The apparent government isn’t the real government. The real power in America resides in what George Will once called the “permanent political class,” of which the formal government is a subset. It consists of the professoriate, journalists, politicians, revolving appointees, high-level bureaucrats and so on who slosh in and out of formal power. Most are unelected, believe the same things, and share a lack of respect for views other than their own.

    It is they, to continue the example of education, who write the textbooks your children use, determine how history will be rewritten, and set academic standards—all without the least regard for you. You can do nothing about it.

    (8) The US government consists of five branches which are, in rough order of importance, the Supreme Court, the media, the presidency, the bureaucracy, and Congress.

    The function of the Supreme Court, which is both unanswerable and unaccountable, is to impose things that the congress fears to touch. That is, it establishes programs desired by the ruling political class which could not possibly be democratically enacted. While formally a judicial organ, the Court is in reality our Ministry of Culture and Morals. It determines policy regarding racial integration, abortion, pornography, immigration, the practice of religion, which groups receive special privilege, and what forms of speech shall be punished.

    (9) The media have two governmental purposes. The first is to prevent discussion and, to the extent possible, knowledge of taboo subjects. The second is to inculcate by endless indirection the values and beliefs of the permanent political class. Thus for example racial atrocities committed by whites against blacks are widely reported, while those committed by blacks against whites are concealed. Most people know this at least dimly. Few know the degree of management of information.

    (10) Control of television conveys control of the society. It is magic. This is such a truism that we do not always see how true it is. The box is ubiquitous and inescapable. It babbles at us in bars and restaurants, in living rooms and on long flights. It is the national babysitter. For hours a day most Americans watch it.

    Perhaps the key to cultural control is that people can’t not watch a screen. It is probably true that stupid people would not watch intelligent television, but it is certainly true that intelligent people will watch stupid television. Any television, it seems, is preferable to no television. As people read less, the lobotomy box acquires semi-exclusive rights to their minds.

    Television doesn’t tell people what to do. It shows them. People can resist admonition. But if they see something happening over and over, month after month, if they see the same values approvingly portrayed, they will adopt both behavior and values. It takes years, but it works. To be sure it works, we put our children in front of the screen from infancy.

    (11) Finally, people do not want freedom. They want comfort, two hundred channels on the cable, sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, an easy job and an SUV. No country with really elaborate home-theater has ever risen in revolt. An awful lot of people secretly like being told what to do. We would probably be happier with a king.

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    (11) Finally, people do not want freedom. They want comfort, two hundred channels on the cable, sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, an easy job and an SUV. No country with really elaborate home-theater has ever risen in revolt. An awful lot of people secretly like being told what to do. We would probably be happier with a king.
    This is so true!

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