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February 6, 2013

It is indeed difficult to conceive how men

who have entirely given up the habit of self-government

should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed; and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the suffrages of a subservient people. -- "Democracy in America" De Tocqueville

Posted by gerardvanderleun at February 6, 2013 7:20 AM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

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People often write successful books off a single great understanding. Democracy in America has, at the very least, dozens. This remarkable man was 26 when he began Democracy. It is so sad that we never finished it.

"On scrutinizing the Constitution of the United States....it is frightening to note how many differences of knowledge and discernment it assumes in those governed. I have scarcely ever encountered a single man of the common people in America who did not perceive with surprising ease the obligations entailed in the laws of Congress and the beginnings to the laws of his own state, nor who could not separate the matters belonging to the general prerogatives of the Union from those regulated by his local legislature and who could not point to where the competence of the federal courts begins and the limitations of the state tribunals ends."

"For Americans, the force behind the state is much less regulated, enlightened, or prudent but a hundred times greater than in Europe. It is no good looking at the United States for uniformity and permanence of attitude, minute attention to detail, or perfection of administrative procedures. What one does find is the picture of power, somewhat wild perhaps, but full of strength; life liable to accidents but also full of striving and activity. One of the happiest consequences of the absence of government is the development of individual strength that inevitably follows from it."

"Administrative centralization only serves to weaken those nations to submit to it, because it has the constant effect of diminishing their sense of civic pride. One can appreciate that with the increase of centralization the capacity of the one and the incapacity of the other become more striking. It must not be forgotten that is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. Subjection in minor affairs...does not drive men to resistance, but it crossed them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own free will. It is, above all, in the details that we risk enslaving men. Freedom in the big things of life is less important than in the slightest."

"How can liberty be upheld in great matters amongst a multitude which has not learned to make use of it in small ones?"

Posted by: james wilson at February 6, 2013 10:31 AM

The pity is that he is a DWEM who has been ignored out of the curriculum.

The thing that galls current academics is that the acuteness of Tocqueville's perceptions makes them as fresh and as pertinent as they were when they were published 178 years ago.

Long after today's pundits are completely forgotten, which is to say 30 minutes after their burials, Democracy will be studied by those who want to know what the American Republic was like before the insidious disease of Marxism destroyed it.

Posted by: Fat Man at February 6, 2013 10:46 AM

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