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Alexis de Tocqueville: How People Gain Liberty and Lose It (old article)
The Freeman ^ | JULY 01, 1996 | Jim Powell

Posted on 01/22/2013 10:40:51 AM PST by Sir Napsalot

Alexis de Tocqueville was a gentleman-scholar who emerged as one of the world’s great prophets. More than a century and a half ago, when most people were ruled by kings, he declared that the future belonged to democracy. He explained what was needed for democracy to work and how it could help protect human liberty. At the same time, he warned that a welfare state could seduce people into servitude. He saw why socialism must lead to slavery.

Tocqueville staked his life on liberty. “I have a passionate love for liberty, law, and respect for rights,” he wrote. “I am neither of the revolutionary party nor of the conservative. . . . Liberty is my foremost passion.”

Reflecting on Tocqueville’s famous book Democracy in America, historian Daniel J. Boorstin observed: “The most interesting question for the newcomer to Tocqueville is why this book, of all the myriad travel accounts of the United States, should have become a classic—the standard source for generalizing about America. From Tocqueville’s era, two best-selling books on the United States—Mrs. Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832) and Charles Dickens’ American Notes (1842)—by more clever stylists and more acute observers than Tocqueville, survive only as scholarly footnotes. They tell us about those curious earlier Americans, but Tocqueville tells us about ourselves. He speaks to us every day.”

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Chit/Chat
KEYWORDS: detocqueville; freedom; liberty; philosophy; tocqueville
Very long article, yet even more relevant as of today, the beginning of Carter II second term.

I urge you to read it all.

1 posted on 01/22/2013 10:41:03 AM PST by Sir Napsalot
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To: Sir Napsalot
Tocqueville attributed the upheavals his family lived through to centralized government: “Most of those people in France who speak against centralization do not really wish to see it abolished; some because they hold power, others because they expect to hold it. It is with them as it was with the pretorians, who voluntarily suffered the tyranny of the emperor because each of them might one day become emperor. . . . Decentralization, like liberty, is a thing which leaders promise their people, but which they never give them. To get and to keep it the people might count on their own sole efforts: if they do not care to do so the evil is beyond remedy.”

Read more:

Tocqueville was the man who discovered American individualism—he described it somewhat negatively as “a mature and calm feeling which disposes each member of the community to sever himself from the mass of his fellow-creatures, and to draw apart with his family and friends.” Yet he talked approvingly about self-help, a hallmark of American individualism. For example: “The citizen of the United States is taught from infancy to rely upon his own exertions in order to resist the evils and the difficulties of life; he looks upon the social authority with an eye of mistrust and anxiety, and he claims its assistance only when he is unable to do without it.”

With phenomenal foresight, Tocqueville predicted that the welfare state would become a curse. For example: “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. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. 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; it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances; what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?”

Sorry to cut and paste, however I find these passages most notable. The last paragraph in particular. I have seen a redefining of Democracy that has allowed this, here in America.

2 posted on 01/22/2013 11:44:34 AM PST by Zeneta (Why are so many people searching for something that has already found us ?)
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To: Sir Napsalot
Tocqueville observed how liberty and the need for social cooperation give people incentives to be virtuous. “I have often seen Americans make great and real sacrifices to the public welfare; and I have noticed a hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend faithful support to one another."

IOW, the civil society as Mark Levin reminds us.

FDR, LBJ, Bam and decades of horrible laws and court decisions have nearly destroyed the civil society and blown a wide gap in the front lines of our freedom; the rat hordes are pouring through.

3 posted on 01/22/2013 11:56:51 AM PST by Jacquerie ("How few were left who had seen the republic!" - Tacitus, The Annals)
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To: Zeneta

“Sorry to cut and paste” ===> No need.

I only wanted to link to the article. People can skip the first half, as it is a shortened Tocqueville life story, to generate more discussion.

FReepers are more wise and better informed than average. Tocqueville, a sage / prophet still, if only more young people are aware of his “Democracy in America”.

4 posted on 01/22/2013 12:03:21 PM PST by Sir Napsalot (Pravda + Useful Idiots = CCCP; JournOList + Useful Idiots = DopeyChangey!)
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To: Jacquerie

There has been a concerted effort to replace “inalienable rights” with rights granted by Man.

It’s a question of Faith.

Faith in man or Faith in Government.

Undermining faith in man has been extremely effective by creating uncertainly through relativism, multiculturalism and political correctness.

Teaching generations of our youth that you can’t “judge” and right and wrong are a matter of perspective, has left them without the structure of authority. A parent if you will.

Therefore the desire for structure has left them with a choice between the two evils of government control.

Their choice is between a euro-centric socialism (all caring providers) and what has been effectively miss categorized as Fascism. And we all know Fascism is evil.

The left no longer believes that individuals can manage their own affairs. This is not to suggest that they think “they” need help, it suggests the acceptance of the “narcissist within” and the elitism that follows.

5 posted on 01/22/2013 12:41:48 PM PST by Zeneta (Why are so many people searching for something that has already found us ?)
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To: Sir Napsalot

Oh please. de Tocqueville?
Just another dead white guy

It’s Obama’s time now....


6 posted on 01/22/2013 12:55:20 PM PST by RedMonqey ("Gun-free zones" equal "Target-rich environment.")
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To: RedMonqey
Yeah, I know. Who needs the Constitution, right?

We need to progress beyond, progress towards, um, gosh, ..... I don't know, but Obama knows best.////

Seriously, today's citizenry is nothing like it used to be. The Left’s life long dream finally came to fruition.

7 posted on 01/22/2013 1:03:04 PM PST by Sir Napsalot (Pravda + Useful Idiots = CCCP; JournOList + Useful Idiots = DopeyChangey!)
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To: Sir Napsalot
Seriously, today's citizenry is nothing like it used to be.

They're to busy "twitting meanless crap or watching the Food Channel and envisioning their next recipe.

Mindless gerbils waiting for their next feeding and spinning around on their hamster cage wheels..
8 posted on 01/22/2013 2:00:23 PM PST by RedMonqey ("Gun-free zones" equal "Target-rich environment.")
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To: Sir Napsalot

Excellent post, and yes, its even more relevant today. Thanks for sharing the legacy of this great person with everyone. On a side note, similar themes were reflected in Levin’s book “Liberty and Tyranny”.

Sadly I think we’ve slipped too far as a nation and de Tocqueville’s powerful logic and reason will not convince most Americans that we’re headed down the path of self-destruction. Ironically only an economic calamity will save us now. The country needs a reality check.

9 posted on 01/22/2013 3:26:44 PM PST by Starboard
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To: Sir Napsalot

If you read the guy, you will find out that he was not nearly as positive about America or democracy as you might expect.

He was very clear that he considered the expansion of democracy inevitable, but he considered this to be negative in a lot of ways. He saw a lot of good in the disappearing aristocratic ideal.

10 posted on 01/22/2013 3:46:56 PM PST by Sherman Logan
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To: Sherman Logan

Because for the Democracy in America to work, you have to meet a most important condition, that the citizenry remain as its olden days.

Yet from old empire to empire, the span of citizens’ attention is roughly about 200 years. We are currently on the dying cycle, (sorry for the pessimism).

Hope whatever rebirths after this will bring us back to our roots of a Constitutional Republic.

11 posted on 01/23/2013 5:01:43 AM PST by Sir Napsalot (Pravda + Useful Idiots = CCCP; JournOList + Useful Idiots = DopeyChangey!)
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