Democracy in America?

“Democracy has nothing to do with freedom. Democracy is a soft variant of communism, and rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else.”

Hans-Herman Hoppe

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Democracy in America + Tocqueville


Many constitutionalist patriots believe that the United States of America is a republic, but not a democracy. Etymologically, “democracy” and “republic” are defined, respectively, as:


“1570s, from Middle French démocratie (14c.), from Medieval Latin democratia (13c.), from Greek demokratia ‘popular government,’ from demos ‘common people,’ originally ‘district’ (see demotic), + kratos ‘rule, strength’ (see cracy).”

“c. 1600, ‘state in which supreme power rests in the people via elected representatives,’ from Middle French république (15c.), from Latin respublica (ablative republica) ‘the common weal, a commonwealth, state, republic,’ literally res publica ‘public interest, the state,’ from res ‘affair, matter, thing’ + publica, fem. of publicus ‘public’ (see public (adj.)). Republic of letters attested from 1702.”


From what I can tell from these definitions, there appears to be only a difference of emphasis between what are otherwise similarities in kind. As has been mentioned before, an Archon in ancient Greece was a municipal official that could accurately be extrapolated to mean a ruler; therefore, “monarchy,” is one ruler, “oligarchy” is rule by the few, and “anarchy” is an absence of rulers. Democracy, interestingly enough, is rule by the many; to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson’s definition of a republic, each citizen’s voice is weighed the same in determining public policy.

If there is no substantially fundamental difference between a republic and a democracy, then what is the governmental structure of these United States? It could be said that it is a federated constitutional democratic republic; the federation enjoys dual sovereignty between the several state governments and the central government, each with its own constitution and citizenry, elections are held by each of these American governments to rotate the inhabitants of public offices, and the government’s laws are intended to both protect the liberty of the individual as well as to constrain the power of the government itself. Although it is true that the word, “democracy,” is enumerated in neither the Declaration of Independence nor the United States Constitution, it is also equally true that these democratic republics have established constitutionally enumerated county sheriffs, (in addition to the unconstitutional federal alphabet soup boys, state highway patrols, and municipal police departments) as the monopoly on the provision of security services.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t want to be ruled by the many. Alexis de Tocqueville is correct in saying that America is a democracy, which is due largely to the presence of governmental elections. Not only that, but it seems to me that Tocqueville predicted the rise of political correctness:


“I think that democratic communities have a natural taste for freedom: left to themselves, they will seek it, cherish it, and view any privation of it with regret. But for equality, their passion is ardent, insatiable, incessant, invincible: they call for equality in freedom; and if they cannot obtain that, they still call for equality in slavery. They will endure poverty, servitude, barbarism – but they will not endure aristocracy. This is true at all times, and especially true in our own. All men and all powers seeking to cope with this irresistible passion, will be overthrown and destroyed by it. In our age, freedom cannot be established without it, and despotism itself cannot reign without its support.” [emphasis added]


And that is exactly the reason I don’t particularly care for alleged “equality” as promoted by both progressive socialists and the “social justice” advocates – they prefer an “equal” slavery to an “equal” freedom; in other words, they are no advocates of liberty at all. Paradoxically, this frustration only grows with increases in equality, and has been dubbed the Tocqueville effect. Similarly, Tocqueville also predicted the rise of the neoconservatives:


“I think that extreme centralization of government ultimately enervates society, and thus after a length of time weakens the government itself; but I do not deny that a centralized social power may be able to execute great undertakings with facility in a given time and on a particular point. This is more especially true of war, in which success depends much more on the means of transferring all the resources of a nation to one single point, than on the extent of those resources. Hence it is chiefly in war that nations desire and frequently require to increase the powers of the central government. All men of military genius are fond of centralization, which increases their strength; and all men of centralizing genius are fond of war, which compels nations to combine all their powers in the hands of the government. Thus the democratic tendency which leads men unceasingly to multiply the privileges of the State, and to circumscribe the rights of private persons, is much more rapid and constant amongst those democratic nations which are exposed by their position to great and frequent wars, than amongst all others.” [emphasis added]


This suggests to me that, perhaps, democratic armies are more bloodthirsty and power-hungry than even monarchies, which might explain the underground support for American monarchism during the colonial period. Taking this all into account, it would appear that the rise of the false left-right paradigm is a fait accompli because of democracy itself. War is Peace and Freedom is Slavery, much?

Although Tocqueville’s observations about the American condition are rather insightful, his own personal attitudes colored the rest of his institutional analysis. Simply put, Tocqueville was a collectivist because he despised individualism; as he said:


“Individualism is a novel expression, to which a novel idea has given birth. Our fathers were only acquainted with egotism. Egotism is a passionate and exaggerated love of self, which leads a man to connect everything with his own person, and to prefer himself to everything in the world. Individualism is 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 his friends; so that, after he has thus formed a little circle of his own, he willingly leaves society at large to itself. Egotism originates in blind instinct: individualism proceeds from erroneous judgment more than from depraved feelings; it originates as much in the deficiencies of the mind as in the perversity of the heart. Egotism blights the germ of all virtue; individualism, at first, only saps the virtues of public life; but, in the long run, it attacks and destroys all others, and is at length absorbed in downright egotism. Egotism is a vice as old as the world, which does not belong to one form of society more than to another: individualism is of democratic origin, and it threatens to spread in the same ratio as the equality of conditions.”


In other words, Tocqueville believed that individualism always led to narcissism and self-isolation, but if what he said about political correctness and the warfare state is also true, then it does beg the question as to which is the lesser evil, if individualism is an evil at all? Unfortunately, Tocqueville is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a notorious racist, for he said:


“I remember that while I was travelling through the forests which still cover the State of Alabama, I arrived one day at the log house of a pioneer. I did not wish to penetrate into the dwelling of the American, but retired to rest myself for a while on the margin of a spring, which was not far off, in the woods. While I was in this place (which was in the neighborhood of the Creek territory), an Indian woman appeared, followed by a negress, and holding by the hand a little white girl of five or six years old, whom I took to be the daughter of the pioneer. A sort of barbarous luxury set off the costume of the Indian; rings of metal were hanging from her nostrils and ears; her hair, which was adorned with glass beads, fell loosely upon her shoulders; and I saw that she was not married, for she sill wore that necklace of shells which the bride always deposits on the nuptial couch. The negress was clad in squalid European garments. They all three came and seated upon the banks of the fountain; and the young Indian, taking the child in her arms, lavished upon her such fond caresses as mothers give; while the negress endeavored by various little artifices to attract the attention of the young Creole.

“The child displayed in her slightest gestures a consciousness of superiority which formed a strange contrast with her infantine weakness; as if she received the attentions of her companions with a sort of condescension. The negress was seated on the ground before her mistress, watching her smallest desires, and apparently divided between strong affection for the child and servile fears; whilst the savage displayed, in the midst of her tenderness, an air of freedom and of pride which was almost ferocious. I had approached the group, and I contemplated them in silence; but my curiosity was probably displeasing to the Indian woman, for she suddenly arose, pushed the child roughly from her, and giving me an angry look plunged into the thicket. I had often chanced to see individuals met together in the same place, who belonged to the three races of men which people North America. I had perceived from many different results the preponderance of the whites. But in the picture which I have just been describing there was something peculiarly touching; a bond of affection here united the oppressors with the oppressed, and the effort of nature to bring them together rendered still more striking the immense distance placed between them by prejudice and by law.”


As if that ridiculous portrait wasn’t enough for you, consider what Tocqueville described earlier as his attitude towards both Negroes and Indians alike:


“The negro makes a thousand fruitless efforts to insinuate himself amongst men who repulse him; he conforms to the tastes of his oppressors, adopts their opinions, and hopes by imitating them to form a part of their community. Having been told from infancy that his race is naturally inferior to that of the whites, he assents to the proposition and is ashamed of his own nature. In each of his features he discovers a trace of slavery, and, if it were in his power, he would willingly rid himself of everything that makes him what he is.

“The Indian, on the contrary, has his imagination inflated with the pretended nobility of his origin, and lives and dies in the midst of these dreams of pride. Far from desiring to conform his habits to ours, he loves his savage life as the distinguishing mark of his race, and he repels every advance to civilization, less perhaps from the hatred which he entertains for it, than from a dread of resembling the Europeans. While he has nothing to oppose to our perfection in the arts but the resources of the desert, to our tactics nothing by undisciplined courage; whiles our well-digested plans are met by the spontaneous instincts of savage life, who can wonder if he fails in this unequal contest?”


Well, so much for democracy being progressively tolerant, huh? Most importantly, Tocqueville was a statist because he hated anarchy, for he said:


“Governments usually fall a sacrifice to impotence or to tyranny. In the former case their power escapes from them; it is wrested from their grasp in the latter. Many observers, who have witnessed the anarchy of democratic States, have imagined that the government of those States were naturally weak and impotent. The truth is, that when once hostilities are begun between parties, the government loses its control over society. But I do not think that a democratic power is naturally without force or without resources; say, rather, that it is almost always by the abuse of its force and the misemployment of its resources that a democratic government fails. Anarchy is almost always produced by its tyranny or its mistakes, but not by its want of strength.”

“Nevertheless, a careful examination of the history of the United States for the last forty-five years will readily convince us that the federal power is declining; nor is it difficult to explain the causes of this phenomenon. When the Constitution of 1789 was promulgated, the nation was a prey to anarchy; the Union, which succeeded this confusion, excited much dread and much animosity; but it was warmly supported because it satisfied an imperious want. Thus, although it was more attacked that it is now, the federal power soon reached the maximum of its authority, as is usually the case with a government which triumphs after having braced its strength by the struggle. At that time the interpretation of the Constitution seemed to extend, rather than to repress, the appearance of a single and undivided people, directed in its foreign and internal policy by a single Government.”

“I am, however, persuaded that anarchy is not the principal evil which democratic ages have to fear, but the least. For the principle of equality begets two tendencies; the one leads men straight to independence, and may suddenly drive them into anarchy; the other conducts them by a longer, more secret, but more certain road, to servitude. Nations readily discern the former tendency, and are prepared to resist it; they are led away by the latter, without perceiving its drift; hence it is peculiarly important to point it out.”


Needless to say, Tocqueville knew that the Federalist power grab, which was agreed to by the concession of the Anti-Federalists in the form of the Bill of Rights, would diminish the natural liberty of the people to live without rulers. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, as Lord Acton pointed out, but then what becomes of constitutionally limited power? Aren’t the grievances of the constitutionalist American patriots suggestive that such “limited” powers are in fact not limited at all, but rather that they are truly absolute?

Interestingly enough, Frédéric Bastiat was a contemporary of Tocqueville’s, since they both had been born and died within a few years of each other. For all of Tocqueville’s promotion of the State, Bastiat said otherwise:


“The State is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.”


Considering that democracy is rule by the many, and it is a form of the State (as is a republic, as well), then it stands to reason that Tocqueville is no classical liberal, but if anything, he’d be a social democrat. I think this other insight by Bastiat really clinches the case against democracy:


“Is it any wonder that every failure threatens to cause a revolution? And what is the remedy proposed? To extend indefinitely the dominion of the law, i.e., the responsibility of Government…and now, after having vainly inflicted upon the social body so many systems, let them end where they ought to have begun – reject all systems, and try liberty – liberty, which is an act of faith in God and in His work.”


Given all the government failure inherent in democracy, I can’t help but agree with Bastiat’s conclusion that rejecting all systems, including democracy and republicanism, is the prelude to genuinely trying liberty, especially in the context of breaking up the monopoly on the production of security services

Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is demonstrative of the fact that democracy is truly the war of all against all, where life is nasty, brutish, and short, because special interests vie of control of the government’s laws, that is, the coercive legal apparatus of the State. Naomi Wolf, much like Tocqueville, is a social democrat and a reformist; both of them are evocative for my reasons why I abhor reformism, and why I especially loathe democracy with a passion, hence why I canceled my voter registration. I just can’t find within myself the enthusiasm to cheer on the spreading of democracy, especially in light of the fact that Tocqueville himself warned of democracy slipping into a soft despotism. If any of you decide to go on a circuit of political fieldtrips, then you will discover for yourself whether Tocqueville’s hope for democracy panned out at all, or has fizzled out of existence in any real way that matters.

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