Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Tyranny of the Majority

Alexis de Tocqueville was a famous political and cultural writer about American democracy in the 1830s. Among his writings about Democracy in 1835, were the warnings of the "tyranny of the majority" leading to a despotic government. De Tocqueville wrote, "A majority taken collectively is only an individual, whose opinions, and frequently whose interests, are opposed to those of another individual, who is styled a minority." As such, when a majority is given the power to control the entire government apparatus, the ability of the minority to participate in the government, or even to influence the majority, can be easily ignored by the majority, at the doom of the nation.

I believe that the prophecy of the tyranny of the majority that de Tocqueville described over a century and a half ago has begun, with only members of the Democrat Party, yes, the party in power, now able to defend America from the outcome de Tocqueville warned of.

De Tocqueville wrote:
"If republican principles are to perish in America, they can yield only after a laborious social process, often interrupted and as often resumed, they will have many apparent revivals and will not become totally extinct until an entirely new people have succeeded to those who now exist. If it be admitted that a man possessing absolute power may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should not a majority be liable to the same reproach? Men do not change their characters by uniting with one another; nor does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase with their strength. For my own part, I cannot believe it; the power to do everything, which I should refuse to one of my equals, I will never grant to any number of them."

"It is my opinion, however, that by changing their administrative forms as often as they do, the inhabitants of the United States compromise the stability of their government. It may be apprehended that men perpetually thwarted in their designs by the mutability of legislation will learn to look on the republic as an inconvenient form of society, the evil resulting from the instability of the secondary enactments might then raise a doubt as to the nature of the fundamental principles of the Constitution and indirectly bring about a revolution; but this epoch is still very remote."

"It may be foreseen even now that when the Americans lose their republican institutions they will speedily arrive at a despotic government."

Progressive social changes that would alter our basic American principles and values of liberty, freedom and individual pursuit of success? Only a remote possibility of our republic succumbing to those who would ignore or destroy the Constitution? America falling into the grips of a despotic government, where we fall under a despotic majority acting in unison against the principles this nation was founded upon?

174 years after de Tocqueville wrote the words, we're here folks.

Democracy in America - Alexis de Tocqueville

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