The Prescience of Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville Public Domain

Alexis de Tocqueville was amazingly observant and had an outsider perspective of American democracy. He was a deposed French Aristocrat from Normandy whose ancestors had fought in the battle of Hastings. His parents narrowly escaped the guillotine during the French Revolution. He came to America initially to study the Penal system but ended up writing his magnum opus Democracy in America, instead. He believed that democracy was providential, nonetheless, he expressed ambivalence to it. He observed then, that in contrast to his home country, America was beginning its democratic experiment with more or less a blank slate, whereas in France it had to establish itself over the legacy of aristocracy. So he often contrasted and compared American democracy with aristocracy.

I think of writers of Tocqueville’s era – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Mellville – as having greater social intelligence. They seem a lot more invested than today’s writers in what they believed made individual people tick. A book like Moby Dick, just has tremendous psychological depth to it, even if in terms of Cetacean biology it seems fairly naive by today’s standards. When it comes to human nature, writers of this era were very sophisticated. If anything, we have become dumbed down in that regard.

This was before sociology, in which masses of people are seen in terms of statistics and the machinations of dialectical materialism. Tocqueville was interested in the character of Americans, individually and in the whole. He got a lot right.

This classic text has long been in the public domain and is available to read free online. He covered various aspects of American life and how it was shaped by democracy. Here is an excerpt from chapter 14 in which he clearly compares and contrasts democracy and aristocracy:
Chapter 14:

WHAT ARE THE REAL ADVANTAGES WHICH AMERICAN SOCIETY DERIVES FROM A DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT

“Democratic laws generally tend to promote the welfare of the greatest possible number; for they emanate from the majority of the citizens, who are subject to error, but who cannot have an interest opposed to their own advantage. The laws of an aristocracy tend, on the contrary, to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the minority; because an aristocracy, by its very nature, constitutes a minority. It may therefore be asserted, as a general proposition, that the purpose of a democracy in its legislation is more useful to humanity than that of an aristocracy. This, however, is the sum total of its advantages.

Aristocracies are infinitely more expert in the science of legislation than democracies ever can be. They are possessed of a selfcontrol that protects them from the errors of temporary excitement; and they form far-reaching designs, which they know how to mature till a favorable opportunity arrives. Aristocratic government proceeds with the dexterity of art; it understands how to make the collective force of all its laws converge at the same time to a given point. Such is not the case with democracies, whose laws are almost always ineffective or inopportune. The means of democracy are therefore more imperfect than those of aristocracy, and the measures that it unwittingly adopts are frequently opposed to its own cause; but the object it has in view is more useful.”

Because of his unique perspective, Tocqueville presents an excellent way of framing a debate about the erosion of democracy in the United States. Democracy is less efficient then aristocracy, but serves the interests of the greater good rather than simply those of an elite, as seen in an aristocracy.

Framing things in this way takes out a lot of the mystery as to what is happening in this country. Is America under aristocracy? Which pattern does our current political process resemble? Probably some time after the Federal Reserve was created, and most certainly after World War II, our own aristocracy – our elites – began to subvert the democratic process by meeting in private to decide matters of state. In place of the democracy our country was founded on, we inherited private meetings behind closed doors in think tanks such as The Project for the New American Century,  the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg group, Bohemian Grove, and countless others both known and unknown.

In Tocqueville’s time there was aristocracy before the revolutions, both French and American. Is there anything surprising about aristocracy arising once more in the United States? It is simply a re-emerging of an older pattern. Tocqueville predicted the way in which it might re-emerge in chapter 20 of Democracy in America:

“HOW AN ARISTOCRACY MAY BE CREATED BY MANUFACTURES”

I have shown how democracy favors the growth of manufactures and increases without limit the numbers of the manufacturing classes; we shall now see by what side-road manufacturers may possibly, in their turn, bring men back to aristocracy.

“In proportion as the principle of the division of labor is more extensively applied, the workman becomes more weak, more narrow-minded, and more dependent. The art advances, the artisan recedes. On the other hand, in proportion as it becomes more manifest that the productions of manufactures are by so much the cheaper and better as the manufacture is larger and the amount of capital employed more considerable, wealthy and educated men come forward to embark in manufactures, which were heretofore abandoned to poor or ignorant handicraftsmen. The magnitude of the efforts required and the importance of the results to be obtained attract them. Thus at the very time at which the science of manufactures lowers the class of workmen, it raises the class of masters…

…The master and the workman have then here no similarity, and their differences increase every day. They are connected only like the two rings at the extremities of a long chain. Each of them fills the station which is made for him, and which he does not leave; the one is continually, closely, and necessarily dependent upon the other and seems as much born to obey as that other is to command. What is this but aristocracy?”

Not only did Tocqueville predict a coming “manufacturing Aristocracy” but also some intriguing intuitions regarding what has come to be known as the “Military Industrial Complex” in his chapter titled “Why Democratic Nations Naturally Desire Peace, and Democratic Armies, War”, Tocqueville noted that unlike Aristocracies, Democracies, paradoxically, tend toward careerism in the Army.

“WHY DEMOCRATIC NATIONS NATURALLY DESIRE PEACE, AND DEMOCRATIC ARMIES, WAR”

” Among aristocratic nations an officer, independently of his rank in the army, also occupies an elevated rank in society; the former is almost always, in his eyes, only an appendage to the latter…”

“In democratic armies the desire of advancement is almost universal: it is ardent, tenacious, perpetual; it is strengthened by all other desires and extinguished only with life itself. But it is easy to see that, of all armies in the world, those in which advancement must be slowest in time of peace are the armies of democratic countries. As the number of commissions is naturally limited while the number of competitors is almost unlimited, and as the strict law of equality is over all alike, none can make rapid progress; many can make no progress at all. Thus the desire of advancement is greater and the opportunities of advancement fewer there than elsewhere. All the ambitious spirits of a democratic army are consequently ardently desirous of war, because war makes vacancies and warrants the violation of that law of seniority which is the sole privilege natural to democracy.”

” After all, and in spite of all precautions, a large army in the midst of a democratic people will always be a source of great danger. The most effectual means of diminishing that danger would be to reduce the army, but this is a remedy that all nations are not able to apply.”

I think Tocqueville was the most prescient of all on the form Despotism would take in America:

” I think, then, that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world; our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression that will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.

…The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate….
… It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood…

…Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits…
…After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, 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. “

Tocqueville again comments on the potential resurgence of aristocracy. Is this an inevitability?

“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.

A constitution republican in its head and ultra-monarchical in all its other parts has always appeared to me to be a short-lived monster. The vices of rulers and the ineptitude of the people would speedily bring about its ruin; and the nation, weary of its representatives and of itself, would create freer institutions or soon return to stretch itself at the feet of a single master.”

These are only a few of Tocqueville’s predictions. There are many more to be found in Democracy in America.; warnings, if we will accept them. To know our future, we need only look to our past as seen through the eyes of that preeminent observer of the American condition, Tocqueville.

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  • Liam_McGonagle

    Interesting read.  Sound premise about militarization.

    But I don’t know how one could have missed the obvious precedent of the Roman Empire in the 1st century B.C.E.

    Rome defeated its competing superpowers Carthage and Pontus, and in the process created a standing army.  Nominally a citizen army, from Marius onward, soldiers were now full-time professionals recruited from the poorest segments of society whereas service had previously been on a temporary call-up basis only from persons of higher income.

    An especially interesting parallell is the way in which funding these armies bankrupted the state and accelerated the arrival of autocracy.  We have enormous global military commitments which the citizenry refuse to curtail or sufficiently support through taxation. 

    Their concept of taxation was tied to the obsolete model of localized, defensive warfare whereby the costs of a campaign were paid entirely by plunder fromt he defeated state.  The notion that the citizens of Rome should pay for their own wars was utterly unthinkable to them, and as a result they created the worst possible funding model–assigning responsibility for legionnaires’ payment to their commander, thereby ensuring constant pressure for newer, more lucrative conflicts. 

    Here, of course, is where particular cases diverge, as they must, because history never repeats itself in precisely the same way twice.

    From Marius onward, the monopoly of violence in the state belonged to military generals, who owed their office to traditional family and patronage connections and a voting system heavily weighted in favor of large property holders, on the theory that financial, not human capital, was the organizing principle of the nation.  There is an analogy here, but it is imperfect.  Many generals do come from long-serving families, but to my knowledge most of these fellows would be expected to arrive at the servant’s entrance rather than the front door, on the rare occassion that one should be invited to His Nabbs’ personal residence to begin with.

    The laughable fiction of elected assemblies continued in some degree or other until the end of the empire, but after Augustus died in 14 C.E., no one really worked to hard to keep up appearances.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Interesting read.  Sound premise about militarization.

    But I don’t know how one could have missed the obvious precedent of the Roman Empire in the 1st century B.C.E.

    Rome defeated its competing superpowers Carthage and Pontus, and in the process created a standing army.  Nominally a citizen army, from Marius onward, soldiers were now full-time professionals recruited from the poorest segments of society whereas service had previously been on a temporary call-up basis only from persons of higher income.

    An especially interesting parallell is the way in which funding these armies bankrupted the state and accelerated the arrival of autocracy.  We have enormous global military commitments which the citizenry refuse to curtail or sufficiently support through taxation. 

    Their concept of taxation was tied to the obsolete model of localized, defensive warfare whereby the costs of a campaign were paid entirely by plunder fromt he defeated state.  The notion that the citizens of Rome should pay for their own wars was utterly unthinkable to them, and as a result they created the worst possible funding model–assigning responsibility for legionnaires’ payment to their commander, thereby ensuring constant pressure for newer, more lucrative conflicts. 

    Here, of course, is where particular cases diverge, as they must, because history never repeats itself in precisely the same way twice.

    From Marius onward, the monopoly of violence in the state belonged to military generals, who owed their office to traditional family and patronage connections and a voting system heavily weighted in favor of large property holders, on the theory that financial, not human capital, was the organizing principle of the nation.  There is an analogy here, but it is imperfect.  Many generals do come from long-serving families, but to my knowledge most of these fellows would be expected to arrive at the servant’s entrance rather than the front door, on the rare occassion that one should be invited to His Nabbs’ personal residence to begin with.

    The laughable fiction of elected assemblies continued in some degree or other until the end of the empire, but after Augustus died in 14 C.E., no one really worked to hard to keep up appearances.

    • Ted Heistman

      Those are some good insights. You are an animal with the Roman History! I think what it is with Tocqueville, is knowledge of history, but also deep insights into how power operates in the human equation. I mean he knew where he was from and how Aristocrats think and how those types of people would play things.

      I think in America, we are kind of out of touch with that mindset because we do have a deep egalitarian ethic. People tend to think everyone is like themselves.

      Its interesting though that Tocqueville pretty much felt democracy was God’s will.

    • Ted Heistman

      Those are some good insights. You are an animal with the Roman History! I think what it is with Tocqueville, is knowledge of history, but also deep insights into how power operates in the human equation. I mean he knew where he was from and how Aristocrats think and how those types of people would play things.

      I think in America, we are kind of out of touch with that mindset because we do have a deep egalitarian ethic. People tend to think everyone is like themselves.

      Its interesting though that Tocqueville pretty much felt democracy was God’s will.

      • Liam_McGonagle

        Ireland has a deep egalitarian ethic that applies all subcultures.  Much more so than America.  They’re like Jews that way–their founding mythology is a story of quasi-religious oppression.  Whether or not they are enthusiastic about it, they understand that they are really expected to chip in together when the occassion demands.

        Their problem is that Irish people correctly perceive that they live in the *ss crack of the world, economically speaking, and their only hope to avoid a dismal isolation is to play Germany’s game.  Everyone hates the f*cking Germans, but the Irish know that this is how the game is played, so there’s no point in complaining.  Not that anyone would care if Ireland dropped off the face of the Earth anyhow.

        Americans are not nearly so egalitarian as we pretend to be.  We’re awfully interested in keeping score around the world and letting people know who’s boss.  Hence the constant calls for military intervention and boiler-plate campaign rhetoric about “American Decline” under supposed crypto-socialsts.

        Frankly, the problem is the American South. They’ve inherited the double legacy of the slave trade and the humiliation of losing the war to preserve it.  It seems never to have crossed those peoples’ minds that the fundamentally anti-social premise of their Antebellum society justified its destruction and should serve as a warning–rather than an example–for future generations.

        This war-glorying psuedo-aristocratic culture crept into the wider national culture over the years following the failure of Reconstruction, with all that stupid “Lost Cause”, plantation society bullsh*t.  But it only went on a truly crazy, cocaine-fuelled bender of self-absorption when the Soviet Union collapsed.

        There are–or rather were–significant pietistic or quasi-communistic threads to American culture (e.g., Mid-Atlantic state Quakers, New England non-conformists).  But their descendants have all been seduced into thinking that the Crackers were right–American Empire was decreed by God.

        Modern Americans are not egalitarians.  They’re cut-rate little jerkoff wannabe aristocrats who don’t think the laws of common sense apply to them.

        • Liam_McGonagle

          P.S.  Connecting this thesis and de Tocqueville’s work, it is important to note that de Tocqueville spent very little time in the South–his observations about American reverence for democracy were based on Northern examples.

          Southerners he right observed as being fundamentally opposed to democracy, although the contemporary David Hackett Fischer is the man to go to for an analysis of the particular historical reasons why Southerners are so opposed to democracy.  See Albion’s Seed:  Four British Folkways in America.

          • Ted Heistman

             I thought Tocqueville’s insights on the South were pretty good. I think I did read Albion’s Seed. I thought the stuff about the Scots Irish was interesting.

          • Ted Heistman

             I thought Tocqueville’s insights on the South were pretty good. I think I did read Albion’s Seed. I thought the stuff about the Scots Irish was interesting.

          • Matt Staggs

            I’ve not read it yet, but I’ve heard of his theories and find what has been communicated to me to be quite sound. 

          • Matt Staggs

            I’ve not read it yet, but I’ve heard of his theories and find what has been communicated to me to be quite sound. 

          • Calypso_1

            Its an excellent book.  His Bound Away is a little more academic in tone but is also well worth reading.  It provided some unique insights into my own families Virginian heritage.

          • Calypso_1

            Its an excellent book.  His Bound Away is a little more academic in tone but is also well worth reading.  It provided some unique insights into my own families Virginian heritage.

          • Ted Heistman

             I’m actually descended from the Annunaki by way of Odin.

          • Ted Heistman

             I’m actually descended from the Annunaki by way of Odin.

          • Ted Heistman

             Actually Liam will hate me but I am descended from some Normans who conquered Northern Ireland

            http://archive.org/stream/dextergenealogy1904dext/dextergenealogy1904dext_djvu.txt

            http://www.araltas.com/features/jordan/

            The Peasants kicked Richard Dexter descendant of Richard De Exeter or Richard de Exonia Lord Justice of Ireland out of Northern Ireland in 1642 and he moved to Boston. My Mom has this family tree based on a big elm tree that he planted on his estate in Malden Mass that George Washington apparently hitched his horse to once.

            I think some of them moved to Virginia at some point.

          • Ted Heistman

             Actually Liam will hate me but I am descended from some Normans who conquered Northern Ireland

            http://archive.org/stream/dextergenealogy1904dext/dextergenealogy1904dext_djvu.txt

            http://www.araltas.com/features/jordan/

            The Peasants kicked Richard Dexter descendant of Richard De Exeter or Richard de Exonia Lord Justice of Ireland out of Northern Ireland in 1642 and he moved to Boston. My Mom has this family tree based on a big elm tree that he planted on his estate in Malden Mass that George Washington apparently hitched his horse to once.

            I think some of them moved to Virginia at some point.

          • Ted Heistman

             Here is a Wikipedia page on the rebellion:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Rebellion_of_1641

          • Liam_McGonagle

            I’m descended from the O’Donnells of Tirconnell, and through them the Stuarts and Plantagents.  We’re probably cousin several times over.

            My branch married (several times, actually) members of the MacJordan family of Rathslevin, County Mayo in the 18th century.  They descend from a fellow called Jordan De Exeter, who I think is the guy referred to in your link.  So there are another few potential relationships right there.

            Funny things happen when the world’s population increases several hundred times over.

          • Liam_McGonagle

            I’m descended from the O’Donnells of Tirconnell, and through them the Stuarts and Plantagents.  We’re probably cousin several times over.

            My branch married (several times, actually) members of the MacJordan family of Rathslevin, County Mayo in the 18th century.  They descend from a fellow called Jordan De Exeter, who I think is the guy referred to in your link.  So there are another few potential relationships right there.

            Funny things happen when the world’s population increases several hundred times over.

          • Ted Heistman

             Yeah that’s pretty funny! Small World eh?I like reading about those guys, Knights and what not. So if you are descended from that dude you are descended from Charlemagne, hence the annunaki joke. 

          • Ted Heistman

             Yeah that’s pretty funny! Small World eh?I like reading about those guys, Knights and what not. So if you are descended from that dude you are descended from Charlemagne, hence the annunaki joke. 

          • Calypso_1

            That’s cool, we’re kinda of related.  I’ve got a 5th dimensional 2nd cousin thrice removed who is descended from the eye Odin cast to the bottom of the Well and a Tachyon Slime Mold.

          • Calypso_1

            That’s cool, we’re kinda of related.  I’ve got a 5th dimensional 2nd cousin thrice removed who is descended from the eye Odin cast to the bottom of the Well and a Tachyon Slime Mold.

          • Ted Heistman

             must be the slime mold side. I think I met them at a family reunion. Boy do they know how to party!
            Seriously though I used to channel Odin as a kid. I used to draw this Old one eyed Viking dude over and over again. True story.

          • Ted Heistman

             must be the slime mold side. I think I met them at a family reunion. Boy do they know how to party!
            Seriously though I used to channel Odin as a kid. I used to draw this Old one eyed Viking dude over and over again. True story.

          • Ted Heistman

             This guy is descended from Odin:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollo
            You used to be able to trace him back to Odin on Wikipedia, but they changed it. Charlemagne can be traced back to a sea monster so thats cool.

            I like Sea Monsters. If I see one I will be like “hey small world!”

          • Ted Heistman

             This guy is descended from Odin:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollo
            You used to be able to trace him back to Odin on Wikipedia, but they changed it. Charlemagne can be traced back to a sea monster so thats cool.

            I like Sea Monsters. If I see one I will be like “hey small world!”

          • Ted Heistman

             must be the slime mold side. I think I met them at a family reunion. Boy do they know how to party!
            Seriously though I used to channel Odin as a kid. I used to draw this Old one eyed Viking dude over and over again. True story.

        • Calypso_1

          Instead of just saying the problem is the American South, I’d suggest taking a deeper look at what the South was seeking in terms of Foreign policy direction and how America as a nation took on that role completely.

          In many ways the Plantation/Hacienda System of the American South/South America is now the Global South which extends far beyond any blame that can be laid at the feet of the historic cultural predilections of the would-be Southern Aristocracy. 
          The Confederacy had plans to bring Cuba in as a State and to extend its influence strongly into the dissolving Spanish Empire.  The various misadventures of the ‘filibusters’ make fine reading into the spirit of such endeavors. 

          Post-Civil War America immediately jumped into the role the Confederacy had desired for itself, filling the vacuum left by the Spanish Empire.  Post-Civil War actions of the American military external to the US include Mexico, Columbia, Panama, Haiti, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Nicaragua, & Hawaii, among others. 
          The Spanish-American War and its Pacific Theatre are what lead the US into Empire. This of course was to spread the Spirit of Democracy to the downtrodden.  

          The commanding officer of the American expeditionary force to the Philippians was Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor winner Gen. Arthur MacArthur II.  Twenty-six of his thirty commanding generals were all veterans of the Indian Wars.  Let us ask Native Americans about Democracy, I doubt their experiences were limited to the behaviors of dilettante, anti-social Southerners.
          I’m sure the illustrious Hon. Gov. MacArthur, Sr of Wisconsin, and his heirs, Arthur the Younger, Douglas 5-Star & Arthur III had no such ‘war-glorying pseudo-aristocratic culture’ in their veins; no doubt a nasty contaminant from less distinguished Southern pedigree.

        • Calypso_1

          Instead of just saying the problem is the American South, I’d suggest taking a deeper look at what the South was seeking in terms of Foreign policy direction and how America as a nation took on that role completely.

          In many ways the Plantation/Hacienda System of the American South/South America is now the Global South which extends far beyond any blame that can be laid at the feet of the historic cultural predilections of the would-be Southern Aristocracy. 
          The Confederacy had plans to bring Cuba in as a State and to extend its influence strongly into the dissolving Spanish Empire.  The various misadventures of the ‘filibusters’ make fine reading into the spirit of such endeavors. 

          Post-Civil War America immediately jumped into the role the Confederacy had desired for itself, filling the vacuum left by the Spanish Empire.  Post-Civil War actions of the American military external to the US include Mexico, Columbia, Panama, Haiti, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Nicaragua, & Hawaii, among others. 
          The Spanish-American War and its Pacific Theatre are what lead the US into Empire. This of course was to spread the Spirit of Democracy to the downtrodden.  

          The commanding officer of the American expeditionary force to the Philippians was Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor winner Gen. Arthur MacArthur II.  Twenty-six of his thirty commanding generals were all veterans of the Indian Wars.  Let us ask Native Americans about Democracy, I doubt their experiences were limited to the behaviors of dilettante, anti-social Southerners.
          I’m sure the illustrious Hon. Gov. MacArthur, Sr of Wisconsin, and his heirs, Arthur the Younger, Douglas 5-Star & Arthur III had no such ‘war-glorying pseudo-aristocratic culture’ in their veins; no doubt a nasty contaminant from less distinguished Southern pedigree.

          • Liam_McGonagle

            I don’t disagree with the broadest implications of what you say, but you really should take what I said about the South seriously.  I didn’t write a book about it here, but I didn’t pass without comment as you seem to claim.

            For my part, I think you gloss too lightly over the failure of Reconstruction policy and the evolution of American foreign policy in the post-war period.

            The ordinary course of events after killing hundreds of thousands of your countryman in a failed act of treason is to swing from a tree.

            Instead, these Southerners were rewarded with complete restoration of their citizenship, monopoly over state politics and the right to make de facto slaves out of people who had supposedly been freed by the war. 

            The South’s two founding sub-cultures, the backwoods Scots-Irish Borderers and the eastern shore’s immigrants from the south of England were both highly militarized and unidealistic.  They did not have the mental wherewithall to imagine a generous political settlement whereby everyone got a bit of what they wanted, but nobody got ALL of what they wanted.  Naturally they interpreted the North’s indulgence as a sign of contemptible weakness, to be abused and exploited at every turn.

            By failing to enforce the rights of freed slaves, the North essentially forfeited political victory. This established the horrible pattern of caving in to every petulant demand of ‘rehabilitated’ Southern plutocrats, who became increasingly aggressive in their demands and skillful in stoking the vanity of Northerners to create a mythology of American Empire.

            I might point to the Louisiana race riots as maybe the begining of the end of Reconstruction.  The Federal government just didn’t have the commitment to Black civil rights at that time to actually enforce the terms of the peace.  The North may have won the war, but the South had won the peace.

            The population turnover to immigration to the industrial North was far greater in that period and they had nothing like a competing ideology to withstand the South’s constant whingeing over the lingering shame of their loss of face.

            It wasn’t long before popular culture was turning out romanticized bullsh*t about the beneficent patronage of the white plantation owner over his slaves, etc., etc.  While disgusting in their own right, these were far from the most destructive effects of the South’s victory over Reconstruction.

            In the post-war period Republicans adopted a variety of triangulation strategies including the granting of influential high offices to former rebels.  If this didn’t give them outright victory in elections, at least it divided the Democratic opposition enough to keep them from rendering governance entirely impotent during the administration of Republican presidents and kept inter-sectional tensions from reaching the boiling point where major factions of the white Northern majority would have accused Republicans of war mongering or (just using contemporary language, here) “n*gger loving”.

            So gradually the aparatus of the state was taken over by the losers of the war, to impose its traditional, imperialistic and militaristic vision of the nation’s destiny on the war’s supposed “winners”.

            You talk about influential Union veterans in high military and civil office after the war–which is only partially true. I think you overlook the grotesque OVER-representation of the South in the military (e.g., Patton, son of a confederate officer was far more typical than MacArthur), and the fact that the North has never been as ideologically committed as the South has been.  It is still true today that all the armed forces are disproportionately drawn from the South.

            What you say about the exclusion of Native Americans from American democracy’s beginnings is true, but rather perfunctory.  To begin with, it was not clear at all from the beginning that it would be the British colonials who would dominate the continent–first nations put up considerable resistance to the United States during the Revolution and the War of 1812.  It is by no means certain that first nations people WANTED to be part of the United States.

            And when some of them did make efforts towards integration, I think it is worth noting that the first reservations were established by Southern white planter Andrew Jackson–not that the Nother made much resistance.

          • Liam_McGonagle

            I don’t disagree with the broadest implications of what you say, but you really should take what I said about the South seriously.  I didn’t write a book about it here, but I didn’t pass without comment as you seem to claim.

            For my part, I think you gloss too lightly over the failure of Reconstruction policy and the evolution of American foreign policy in the post-war period.

            The ordinary course of events after killing hundreds of thousands of your countryman in a failed act of treason is to swing from a tree.

            Instead, these Southerners were rewarded with complete restoration of their citizenship, monopoly over state politics and the right to make de facto slaves out of people who had supposedly been freed by the war. 

            The South’s two founding sub-cultures, the backwoods Scots-Irish Borderers and the eastern shore’s immigrants from the south of England were both highly militarized and unidealistic.  They did not have the mental wherewithall to imagine a generous political settlement whereby everyone got a bit of what they wanted, but nobody got ALL of what they wanted.  Naturally they interpreted the North’s indulgence as a sign of contemptible weakness, to be abused and exploited at every turn.

            By failing to enforce the rights of freed slaves, the North essentially forfeited political victory. This established the horrible pattern of caving in to every petulant demand of ‘rehabilitated’ Southern plutocrats, who became increasingly aggressive in their demands and skillful in stoking the vanity of Northerners to create a mythology of American Empire.

            I might point to the Louisiana race riots as maybe the begining of the end of Reconstruction.  The Federal government just didn’t have the commitment to Black civil rights at that time to actually enforce the terms of the peace.  The North may have won the war, but the South had won the peace.

            The population turnover to immigration to the industrial North was far greater in that period and they had nothing like a competing ideology to withstand the South’s constant whingeing over the lingering shame of their loss of face.

            It wasn’t long before popular culture was turning out romanticized bullsh*t about the beneficent patronage of the white plantation owner over his slaves, etc., etc.  While disgusting in their own right, these were far from the most destructive effects of the South’s victory over Reconstruction.

            In the post-war period Republicans adopted a variety of triangulation strategies including the granting of influential high offices to former rebels.  If this didn’t give them outright victory in elections, at least it divided the Democratic opposition enough to keep them from rendering governance entirely impotent during the administration of Republican presidents and kept inter-sectional tensions from reaching the boiling point where major factions of the white Northern majority would have accused Republicans of war mongering or (just using contemporary language, here) “n*gger loving”.

            So gradually the aparatus of the state was taken over by the losers of the war, to impose its traditional, imperialistic and militaristic vision of the nation’s destiny on the war’s supposed “winners”.

            You talk about influential Union veterans in high military and civil office after the war–which is only partially true. I think you overlook the grotesque OVER-representation of the South in the military (e.g., Patton, son of a confederate officer was far more typical than MacArthur), and the fact that the North has never been as ideologically committed as the South has been.  It is still true today that all the armed forces are disproportionately drawn from the South.

            What you say about the exclusion of Native Americans from American democracy’s beginnings is true, but rather perfunctory.  To begin with, it was not clear at all from the beginning that it would be the British colonials who would dominate the continent–first nations put up considerable resistance to the United States during the Revolution and the War of 1812.  It is by no means certain that first nations people WANTED to be part of the United States.

            And when some of them did make efforts towards integration, I think it is worth noting that the first reservations were established by Southern white planter Andrew Jackson–not that the Nother made much resistance.

        • Calypso_1

          Instead of just saying the problem is the American South, I’d suggest taking a deeper look at what the South was seeking in terms of Foreign policy direction and how America as a nation took on that role completely.

          In many ways the Plantation/Hacienda System of the American South/South America is now the Global South which extends far beyond any blame that can be laid at the feet of the historic cultural predilections of the would-be Southern Aristocracy. 
          The Confederacy had plans to bring Cuba in as a State and to extend its influence strongly into the dissolving Spanish Empire.  The various misadventures of the ‘filibusters’ make fine reading into the spirit of such endeavors. 

          Post-Civil War America immediately jumped into the role the Confederacy had desired for itself, filling the vacuum left by the Spanish Empire.  Post-Civil War actions of the American military external to the US include Mexico, Columbia, Panama, Haiti, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Nicaragua, & Hawaii, among others. 
          The Spanish-American War and its Pacific Theatre are what lead the US into Empire. This of course was to spread the Spirit of Democracy to the downtrodden.  

          The commanding officer of the American expeditionary force to the Philippians was Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor winner Gen. Arthur MacArthur II.  Twenty-six of his thirty commanding generals were all veterans of the Indian Wars.  Let us ask Native Americans about Democracy, I doubt their experiences were limited to the behaviors of dilettante, anti-social Southerners.
          I’m sure the illustrious Hon. Gov. MacArthur, Sr of Wisconsin, and his heirs, Arthur the Younger, Douglas 5-Star & Arthur III had no such ‘war-glorying pseudo-aristocratic culture’ in their veins; no doubt a nasty contaminant from less distinguished Southern pedigree.

      • Liam_McGonagle

        Ireland has a deep egalitarian ethic that applies all subcultures.  Much more so than America.  They’re like Jews that way–their founding mythology is a story of quasi-religious oppression.  Whether or not they are enthusiastic about it, they understand that they are really expected to chip in together when the occassion demands.

        Their problem is that Irish people correctly perceive that they live in the *ss crack of the world, economically speaking, and their only hope to avoid a dismal isolation is to play Germany’s game.  Everyone hates the f*cking Germans, but the Irish know that this is how the game is played, so there’s no point in complaining.  Not that anyone would care if Ireland dropped off the face of the Earth anyhow.

        Americans are not nearly so egalitarian as we pretend to be.  We’re awfully interested in keeping score around the world and letting people know who’s boss.  Hence the constant calls for military intervention and boiler-plate campaign rhetoric about “American Decline” under supposed crypto-socialsts.

        Frankly, the problem is the American South. They’ve inherited the double legacy of the slave trade and the humiliation of losing the war to preserve it.  It seems never to have crossed those peoples’ minds that the fundamentally anti-social premise of their Antebellum society justified its destruction and should serve as a warning–rather than an example–for future generations.

        This war-glorying psuedo-aristocratic culture crept into the wider national culture over the years following the failure of Reconstruction, with all that stupid “Lost Cause”, plantation society bullsh*t.  But it only went on a truly crazy, cocaine-fuelled bender of self-absorption when the Soviet Union collapsed.

        There are–or rather were–significant pietistic or quasi-communistic threads to American culture (e.g., Mid-Atlantic state Quakers, New England non-conformists).  But their descendants have all been seduced into thinking that the Crackers were right–American Empire was decreed by God.

        Modern Americans are not egalitarians.  They’re cut-rate little jerkoff wannabe aristocrats who don’t think the laws of common sense apply to them.

    • alizardx

      Thanks for saving me the trouble of writing about the Roman transition between Republic and Empire. Well done.

    • alizardx

      Thanks for saving me the trouble of writing about the Roman transition between Republic and Empire. Well done.

    • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

      I agree with most of what you’ve pointed out about Rome, but I think it was never really a Democracy, but something similar to the US, a sham-democracy, designed to give the Patricians an easier time ruling.

      The Conflict of the Orders was a process that gave the Plebeians more political power, but the aristocracy ultimately prevailed. The US has yet to have a Conflict of the Orders, but it seems one is on the horizon right now.  I don’t think the US has yet arrived at the Dictatorship of Caesar; the Plebeians have yet to engage in a secessio.

    • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

      I agree with most of what you’ve pointed out about Rome, but I think it was never really a Democracy, but something similar to the US, a sham-democracy, designed to give the Patricians an easier time ruling.

      The Conflict of the Orders was a process that gave the Plebeians more political power, but the aristocracy ultimately prevailed. The US has yet to have a Conflict of the Orders, but it seems one is on the horizon right now.  I don’t think the US has yet arrived at the Dictatorship of Caesar; the Plebeians have yet to engage in a secessio.

      • Liam_McGonagle

        Very true.  At its most progressive, the Roman Republic was no more than an oligarchy, with franchise effctively limited to a small number of wealthy families.

        But I don’t think that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that it was much more closer on the evolutionary spectrum to modern ideals of democracy than the naked threat of violence that held the Roman state together under the emperors.

        I often think about the deep ironies of nascent democracy being snuffed out in Rome by the ‘populares’ party under Marius and Caesar, who professed to champion the rights of lower class Romans and client states against the predatory practices of the elite classes.

        In some ways it was true, because in centralizing power the Empire had to take away a great deal of arbitrary power from the old noble families.  From then on the masses would have, in theory, a more direct line of appeal to the ultimate authority of the state.

        Not that amounted to much in the end, though.  It was just one incremental development that eventually became overwhelmed and negated by the slew of critical political questions that Rome never addressed adequately. 

        Not having the moral force to esablish anything resembling a professional, non-partisan administrative infrustructure, the emperors were forced to resort to a type of patronage model whereby offices were either given as gifts to supportive aristos or sold to the highest bidder in order to fund activities that today would be financed by standard tax assessments.  Aside from the reign of Augustus, and brief interludes when favorable economic and political conditions allowed the rare competent emperor to rule wisely, it was effectively a return to oligarchy.

        What kills me is that today WE KNOW the private government model is wrong, doesn’t work and is a recipe for disaster.  We’re not experimenting in a vacuum of precedent the way our Roman forebears were.  And yet we insist on doing the wrong thing anyway.

      • Liam_McGonagle

        Very true.  At its most progressive, the Roman Republic was no more than an oligarchy, with franchise effctively limited to a small number of wealthy families.

        But I don’t think that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that it was much more closer on the evolutionary spectrum to modern ideals of democracy than the naked threat of violence that held the Roman state together under the emperors.

        I often think about the deep ironies of nascent democracy being snuffed out in Rome by the ‘populares’ party under Marius and Caesar, who professed to champion the rights of lower class Romans and client states against the predatory practices of the elite classes.

        In some ways it was true, because in centralizing power the Empire had to take away a great deal of arbitrary power from the old noble families.  From then on the masses would have, in theory, a more direct line of appeal to the ultimate authority of the state.

        Not that amounted to much in the end, though.  It was just one incremental development that eventually became overwhelmed and negated by the slew of critical political questions that Rome never addressed adequately. 

        Not having the moral force to esablish anything resembling a professional, non-partisan administrative infrustructure, the emperors were forced to resort to a type of patronage model whereby offices were either given as gifts to supportive aristos or sold to the highest bidder in order to fund activities that today would be financed by standard tax assessments.  Aside from the reign of Augustus, and brief interludes when favorable economic and political conditions allowed the rare competent emperor to rule wisely, it was effectively a return to oligarchy.

        What kills me is that today WE KNOW the private government model is wrong, doesn’t work and is a recipe for disaster.  We’re not experimenting in a vacuum of precedent the way our Roman forebears were.  And yet we insist on doing the wrong thing anyway.

        • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

          The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submit to… is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it. The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. … Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myself with imagining a State at least which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow-men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen.
           
          Henry David Thoreau -1849 Originally published as “Resistance to Civil Government”

        • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

          The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submit to… is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it. The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. … Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myself with imagining a State at least which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow-men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen.
           
          Henry David Thoreau -1849 Originally published as “Resistance to Civil Government”

          • Jin The Ninja

            love this.

          • Jin The Ninja

            love this.

          • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

            it’s the most visionary thing I’ve seen
            about the evolution of government
            written in 1849, it’s still considered too radical today

          • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

            The next natural evolutionary step in government
            is to end government
            and begin public services.
             
            It is purely a limit of our collect state of consciousness, and
            the lack of a collective imagination powerful enough
            to imagine beyond entertrainment,
            that keeps us from taking the next step.

            Possibly in another 1000 years or so
            we can get back to where we were
            during the years zero till 5000 years ago.

            However, I already live aloof from it,
            not meddling with it, nor embraced by it,
            while fulfilling all the duties of neighbors and fellow-men

          • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

            The next natural evolutionary step in government
            is to end government
            and begin public services.
             
            It is purely a limit of our collect state of consciousness, and
            the lack of a collective imagination powerful enough
            to imagine beyond entertrainment,
            that keeps us from taking the next step.

            Possibly in another 1000 years or so
            we can get back to where we were
            during the years zero till 5000 years ago.

            However, I already live aloof from it,
            not meddling with it, nor embraced by it,
            while fulfilling all the duties of neighbors and fellow-men

          • Liam_McGonagle

            Noble sentiments–but be prepared to be misunderstood.

            Some people will enterpret “end government” and “begin social services” to mean the end of the rule of law and the beginning of total dependence on the direct, whimsical patronage of plutocrats–the end of collective populism and the beginning of naked slavery.

            “If men were angels, there would be no need for government.”

            Thomas Jefferson

            The point being, of course, that men are NOT angels.  Often they don’t even think to TRY to behave like angels unless they’re shamed into it.

          • Liam_McGonagle

            Noble sentiments–but be prepared to be misunderstood.

            Some people will enterpret “end government” and “begin social services” to mean the end of the rule of law and the beginning of total dependence on the direct, whimsical patronage of plutocrats–the end of collective populism and the beginning of naked slavery.

            “If men were angels, there would be no need for government.”

            Thomas Jefferson

            The point being, of course, that men are NOT angels.  Often they don’t even think to TRY to behave like angels unless they’re shamed into it.

          • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

            don’t worry, I’m usually misunderstood
            most people can’t conceive of a life
            without a Nanny government to rule them
            Jefferson’s remark being the most common excuse
            followed by
            who will build the roads?

            I have lived in environments that lack
            the ubiquitous presence of Pigs or “government”
            and it’s a better world in general
            because Pigs don’t prevent crimes
            and generally add to the crimes against humanity

          • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

            don’t worry, I’m usually misunderstood
            most people can’t conceive of a life
            without a Nanny government to rule them
            Jefferson’s remark being the most common excuse
            followed by
            who will build the roads?

            I have lived in environments that lack
            the ubiquitous presence of Pigs or “government”
            and it’s a better world in general
            because Pigs don’t prevent crimes
            and generally add to the crimes against humanity

    • BunkersTrust

      The Roman Republic has often struck me as an apt figure for comparison with the US. It seems to me that there are many similarities of socioeconomic & political circumstances.

      The Republic overthrew the King, but the landed aristocracy led the revolt for their own benefit, and the Republic was a very limited democracy. 

      The Romans were religious in a perfunctory way like Americans and it was used to justified their actions; it was part of their Roman exceptionalism doctrine. 

      Expansion through warfare was present from the very start. Like the US, it was engaged in military aggression every year of it’s existence. All of it justified as Divine Right and perfectly legal, two important imprimaturs for Romans. 

      From start to finish Rome was ruled by people with money and property, but unlike the US,  those people actually made up most of the army till Marcius. 

      It seems that three different secessio by the Plebeians, brought them more rights and rights protection. During a secessio, the Plebeians physically withdrew from Rome and refused to return until they had secured rights and representation. 

      Eventually, as with all Empires, it became rich, lazy and easily manipulated by money interests. As long as there’s bread & circus, everything is honkydory; just like the US

      Sent from my iPhoney

    • BunkersTrust

      The Roman Republic has often struck me as an apt figure for comparison with the US. It seems to me that there are many similarities of socioeconomic & political circumstances.

      The Republic overthrew the King, but the landed aristocracy led the revolt for their own benefit, and the Republic was a very limited democracy. 

      The Romans were religious in a perfunctory way like Americans and it was used to justified their actions; it was part of their Roman exceptionalism doctrine. 

      Expansion through warfare was present from the very start. Like the US, it was engaged in military aggression every year of it’s existence. All of it justified as Divine Right and perfectly legal, two important imprimaturs for Romans. 

      From start to finish Rome was ruled by people with money and property, but unlike the US,  those people actually made up most of the army till Marcius. 

      It seems that three different secessio by the Plebeians, brought them more rights and rights protection. During a secessio, the Plebeians physically withdrew from Rome and refused to return until they had secured rights and representation. 

      Eventually, as with all Empires, it became rich, lazy and easily manipulated by money interests. As long as there’s bread & circus, everything is honkydory; just like the US

      Sent from my iPhoney

  • Liam_McGonagle

    [duplicate deleted]

  • Liam_McGonagle

    The above is already too long, but a specific example of the way confederates who should have been hanged took over American foreign policy is in order: the American envoy to Cuba during the trumped-up “sinking of the Maine” was Fitzhugh Lee–a “rehabilitated” rebel general. He later commanded American forces in Cuba and served as military governor in the wake of America’s first post-bellum imperial adventure.

    The Phillipines engagements you mention were subsequent and subsidiary to the Cuban hostilities, but also reflect the cancerous growth of Southern influence on American policy.

    Every culture has its pros and its cons, just because they’re made up of fallible human beings. But if God or Whatever had never created the American Southerner, I still think the world could have gotten along JUST FINE.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    The above is already too long, but a specific example of the way confederates who should have been hanged took over American foreign policy is in order: the American envoy to Cuba during the trumped-up “sinking of the Maine” was Fitzhugh Lee–a “rehabilitated” rebel general. He later commanded American forces in Cuba and served as military governor in the wake of America’s first post-bellum imperial adventure.

    The Phillipines engagements you mention were subsequent and subsidiary to the Cuban hostilities, but also reflect the cancerous growth of Southern influence on American policy.

    Every culture has its pros and its cons, just because they’re made up of fallible human beings. But if God or Whatever had never created the American Southerner, I still think the world could have gotten along JUST FINE.

  • DeepCough

    Sadly, it’s because Tocqueville is French that makes him an underread author here in the United States. Volume 2 of “Democracy in America” has some of the most profound and disturbingly prescient analysis of the turns that American government would take in the coming century. My personal favorite is “What Despotism Democratic Nations Have To Fear,” which speaks volumes about how a despot like J. Edgar Hoover got to run the FBI for years on end without serious review.

  • DeepCough

    Sadly, it’s because Tocqueville is French that makes him an underread author here in the United States. Volume 2 of “Democracy in America” has some of the most profound and disturbingly prescient analysis of the turns that American government would take in the coming century. My personal favorite is “What Despotism Democratic Nations Have To Fear,” which speaks volumes about how a despot like J. Edgar Hoover got to run the FBI for years on end without serious review.

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    What de Tocqueville could not have anticipated was the electrification of democracy, which happens around the time of his travels in the late 1830’s, when the telegraph began moving information at the speed of light.

    The Civil War is a consequence of the information speed up of the telegraph; something de Tocqueville could not have noticed, since it’s barely noticeable today. The mutation of the American Republic was caused by electric information speed-up.

    Net net: The loss of freedom and privacy is a derivative of electricity.

    His American contemporary Thoreau, is a better prognosticator for the coming changes in America.  And is a better theoretician about the evolution of Democracy, as the last two paragraphs of On Civil Disobedience show. He is the first American to notice the change without being able to clearly articulate the cause, which was the not yet widely distributed.

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    What de Tocqueville could not have anticipated was the electrification of democracy, which happens around the time of his travels in the late 1830’s, when the telegraph began moving information at the speed of light.

    The Civil War is a consequence of the information speed up of the telegraph; something de Tocqueville could not have noticed, since it’s barely noticeable today. The mutation of the American Republic was caused by electric information speed-up.

    Net net: The loss of freedom and privacy is a derivative of electricity.

    His American contemporary Thoreau, is a better prognosticator for the coming changes in America.  And is a better theoretician about the evolution of Democracy, as the last two paragraphs of On Civil Disobedience show. He is the first American to notice the change without being able to clearly articulate the cause, which was the not yet widely distributed.

    • Spacan

      “No sovereign ever lived in former ages so absolute or so
      powerful as to undertake to administer by his own agency, and without
      the assistance of intermediate powers, all the parts of a great empire;
      none ever attempted to subject all his subjects indiscriminately to
      strict uniformity of regulation and personally to tutor and direct every
      member of the community. The notion of such an undertaking never
      occurred to the human mind; and if any man had conceived it, the want of
      information, the imperfection of the administrative system, and, above
      all, the natural obstacles caused by the inequality of conditions would
      speedily have checked the execution of so vast a design.”

      Tocqueville, http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper2/CDFinal/Toc/ch4_06.htm.

    • Spacan

      “No sovereign ever lived in former ages so absolute or so
      powerful as to undertake to administer by his own agency, and without
      the assistance of intermediate powers, all the parts of a great empire;
      none ever attempted to subject all his subjects indiscriminately to
      strict uniformity of regulation and personally to tutor and direct every
      member of the community. The notion of such an undertaking never
      occurred to the human mind; and if any man had conceived it, the want of
      information, the imperfection of the administrative system, and, above
      all, the natural obstacles caused by the inequality of conditions would
      speedily have checked the execution of so vast a design.”

      Tocqueville, http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper2/CDFinal/Toc/ch4_06.htm.

      • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

        When we consider… the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. What old people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.

        Thoreau, Walden, Economy

      • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

        When we consider… the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. What old people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.

        Thoreau, Walden, Economy

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