Remembering Tocqueville’s Democracy in America as Another Election Looms
In the lead-up to this November’s election, democracy has been increasingly held up by many as the touchstone of American greatness. But I have noticed that very few making such claims make reference to Alexis de Tocqueville, whose 1835 Democracy in America has been termed “one of the wisest works of modern thought,” that for understanding and preserving liberty, “the intelligent American reader can find no better guide.” Herbert Muller called it “more comprehensive and more penetrating than any contemporary studies.”
In particular, too little attention has been given Tocqueville’s warnings about the dangers democracy held for what he called his passions–“liberty and human dignity.” Therefore, reconsidering his insights into that relationship is a fitting homework assignment before casting ballots.
- Everyone is the best and sole judge of his own private interest…society has no right to control a man’s actions unless they are prejudicial to the common weal.
- Popularity may be united with hostility to the rights of the people.
- The Federal Constitution…disavowed beforehand the habitual use of compulsion in enforcing the decisions of the majority.
- The natural evil of democracy is that it gradually subordinates all authority to the slightest desires of the majority.
Article from Mises Wire