Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Mostly Correct Frenchman

Though Alexis de Tocqueville’s analysis of democracy in America in the 1800’s included a variety of misunderstandings, some of his insights deserve revisiting, for they were sadly prophetic of how a government founded on individual liberty could be poisoned and destroyed from within.


  • Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.
  • The man who asks of freedom anything other than itself is born to be a slave.
  • The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money.
  • After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will [via a compulsory collectivist, revisionist education], the government 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.
  • It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.

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