Government & Law, Other (abstracted) Views

MUST READ – Summary excerpts from: “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville

November 26, 2017

Excerpts from:

Democracy in America Summary

by Alexis de Tocqueville

*Democracy in America Summary*. GradeSaver

“Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville was written in 1840.  This very insightful work has endured to this day.  The observations are very relevant to the situation we face today.  I would characterize it as a “must read”.  The summary listed above is a good place to start.  Here are some excerpts.

“…main problems of a democracy are the following: a disproportionately high portion of power in the legislative branch, an abuse of or lack of love for freedom, an excessive drive for equality, individualism, and materialism. The elements that Tocqueville believes can most successfully combat these dangerous democratic tendencies are: an independent and influential judiciary, a strong executive branch, local self-government, administrative de-centralization, religion, well-educated women, freedom of association, and freedom of the press.”

“Despotism can come at the hands of a single person or a multitude. In the case of a democracy, there is a grave danger that the majority will become despotic. If there are no checks on the power of the majority to influence the government, then it will have absolute power and those in the minority will be helpless to resist.”

“…there is a tendency to abandon freedom of thought in democratic societies. Going against the opinion of the majority is seen as an indirect claim to the superiority of one’s own opinion, which is directly contradictory to the principle of equality. This form of tyranny, therefore, can be seen as even worse than past tyrannies which involved great physical coercion and brutality.”

“…equality tends to make people’s interests focus in on themselves. There are no societal bonds or duties as there are in an aristocracy which link people together and force them to realize their dependence on one another. Individualism can contribute to the growth of despotism because if citizens become too individualistic they will not bother to fulfill their civic duties or exercise their freedom. Materialism results from a passion for equality because people think that they ought to be able to have as much wealth as everyone else.”

“Non-institutional factors which help to maintain freedom in the United States are the right of association, the freedom of the press, and most importantly religion. Associations are an excellent tool to combat individualism and to allow people to exercise their freedom by taking a part in politics.”

“Tocqueville writes, “The nations of our day cannot prevent conditions of equality from spreading in their midst. But it depends upon themselves whether equality is to lead to servitude or freedom, knowledge or barbarism, prosperity or wretchedness.””

Photo by Eugenio Hansen, OFS

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