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Top 10 List Of Tocqueville Was Wrong About Democratic Essay, Research Paper


1. Equality is treasured more than liberty because everyone has the inward passion to be considered equal to everyone else.

But liberty is not the chief and constant object of their desires; equality is their idol: they make rapid and sudden efforts to obtain liberty, and, if they miss their aim, resign themselves to their disappointment; but nothing can satisfy them without equality, and they would rather perish than lose it. (p. 55)

Tocqueville is saying that liberty is somewhat not as important as equality in a democratic society, and that overall, social democracy means equality. But it needs to be pointed out that equality cannot exist without liberty and individual freedoms, and equality cannot exist without liberty. Both liberty and equality need to work together if any is to exist. The only reason we can enjoy individual freedoms such as speech, privacy, and the pursuit of happiness is because we are all thought of as equals. Thus, equality and liberties are both equally treasured by Americans.

2. Population increase during post-Declaration of Independence period will equal the magnitude of population increase during the pre-Declaration of Independence period.

“It is generally supposed that the prodigious increase of population in the United States is posterior to their Declaration of Independence. But that is an error: the population increased as rapidly under the colonial system as at the present day.” (p. 139)

Here, Tocqueville underestimates the incredible growth America has taken in population due to the immigration opportunities America has allowed. In fact, it was later that Americans saw a need for immigration control and launched the Chinese exclusion act forcing a cap on the number of immigrant coming into the country.

3. American equality takes on a great disadvantage where no one person has great enough power to influence government and protect Americans liberty.

In a state where the citizens are all nearly on an equality, it becomes difficult for them to preserve their independence against the aggressions of power. No one among them being strong enough to engage in the struggle alone with advantage, nothing but a general combination can protect their liberty. (p. 55)

The argument here is that strength lies in unity. The voice of the people is heard best when they meet on common ground. As long as the majority of the people stay united on their common beliefs, the government no matter how powerful can not ignore the cries of an entire nation. For example, the cries of the Americans against the Vietnam War in the 1970 s put pressure on the government and ultimately pushed the government to take action, pulling our men out of Vietnam.

4-5. Americans will preserve a similar social condition, having common religion, language, habits, customs, and opinions.

“Between the destinies of the different descendants of the great Anglo-American family, they will all preserve at least a similar social condition, and will hold in common the customs and opinions to which that social condition has given birth.” (p. 141)

Tocqueville in essence drives at the idea that all Americans will become one unit having common customs and social conditions. “The time will therefore come, when one hundred and fifty millions of men will be living in North America, equal in condition, all belonging to one family, owing their origin to the same cause, and preserving the same civilization, the same language, the same religion, the same habits, the same manners, and imbued with the same opinions, propagated under the same forms.” (p. 141)

Tocqueville s perception of common customs and opinions is however, untrue in today s diverse society. In fact, it is the culture differences and difference in opinions that make the United States the great country that it is.

America is a melting pot of different races and cultures, each with their unique differences, giving America the upper edge in understanding the rest of the world. This vast understanding assists the United States in making opportune decisions that greatly increase its power over the whole world. One example I can think of involves the realm of the business world. More and more in today s society we are seeing large business corporations incorporate diverse cultural backgrounds in corporate decision making procedures. Bilingual individuals are in demand from medicine, to teaching professions.

6. Democratic laws are ineffective because they stem from the voice of the majority and thus subject to error.

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. (p. 101)

Tocqueville seems to assume that the majority includes the ignorant and educated people of the nation and thus the number of the ignorant donates the possibility of error in law making. However, the majority listens to the wants and desires of the people. It is unprofessional to ignore the fact that the majority often knows what is best for themselves. For a government to assume that they will make the best decisions for their people without their consultation is plain ignorance. Assumptions are almost always end in disaster.

7-8. Americans understand the equality of the sexes as being two different and separate roles to be played out in society.

The Americans have applied to the sexes the great principle of political economy which governs the manufacturers of our age, by carefully dividing the duties of man from those of woman, in order that the great work of society may be the better carried on. (p. 244)

Tocqueville senses that the American way of life involves women and men playing out their respective roles in society. In no country has such constant care been taken as in America to trace two clearly distinct lines of action for the two sexes, and to make them keep pace one with the other, but in two pathways which are always different. (p.244) Tocqueville s statement mentions the idea that men and women have different roles in society.

For example, Tocqueville points out the unique differences in the type of work that men perform in comparison to the work women do. Men tend to the field and perform physical labor. The women however have duties calling in the home where they are to rear their children and keep house. Today we see a more equal distribution of men and women in America s labor force. Women have been given the chance to perform the duties men once dominated. Both women and men perform white and blue collar duties. I would not be surprised to see a female elected United States President during my lifetime.

9. Aristocratic laws however are more effective than democratic laws because they stem from the expert minority.

Aristocracies are infinitely more expert in the science of legislation than democracies ever can be. The laws of an aristocracy tend to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the minority; because an aristocracy, by its very nature, constitutes a minority. (p. 101)

It may be true that an aristocracy is in fact a minority, but to say that their laws are better than democratic laws can be disputed. As was mentioned earlier, aristocratic government relies on the opinions of a few and thus does not portray the most accurate demands of an entire nation. How can the laws made from the voice of a few elite, be anywhere near effective laws agreed to by all? In fact, it wouldn t be surprising to find a revolt against such laws because the public was never consulted.

10. The principle of equality naturally divides the Americans into a multitude of small private circles.

The Americans, who mingle so readily in their political assemblies and courts of justice, are wont carefully to separate into small distinct circles, in order to indulge by themselves in the enjoyments of private life. Each of them willingly acknowledges all his fellow-citizens as his equals, but will only receive a very limited number of them as his friends or his guests. This appears to me to be very natural. (p. 247)

Although Tocqueville may believe equality is the driving force that creates a divided nation, one can say that our own human nature and biases alone drive the division. Tocqueville points to the fact that we owe each other no mutual obedience or respect and thus form the comfortable cliques we associate with. However, coming from a Frenchman who has little experience in the way of cultural differences, one can conclude that he overlooked the possibility of America s numerous cultural differences and biases being a central factor in American separation.


1. America will not stay within its boundaries.

“It must not be supposed that the Anglo-American race will always remain within them (boundaries).” (p. 137)

Tocqueville in a sense predicted the famous line from sea to shining sea when he stated, The Anglo-Americans alone will cover the immense space contained between the polar regions and the tropics, extending from the coasts of the Atlantic the those of the Pacific Ocean. (p. 140) Tocqueville s first example is the Americans taking over French land like Saint-Louis and New Orleans. Next he foresaw the takeover of Mexican territory in Texas which we now see to be self-evident.

2. Russia would be ruled by communism, United States would be governed by the idea of majority rules.

“The Anglo-American relies upon personal interest to accomplish his ends, and gives free scope to the unguided strength and common sense of the people; the Russian centers all the authority of society in a single arm. The principal instrument of the former (America) is freedom; of the later (Russia), servitude.” (p. 142)

Tocqueville perceives Russia and the United States as two great powers emerging from the world during the 1830 s. Although they both arise unnoticed he points out their governing differences. Russia is seen to be governed by a dictatorship whereas the United States uses government for the people by the people. Their differences lie in what each perceives as an important factor in a successful government. Russia holds to the belief that servitude is an important factor for a successful government. On the other end of the spectrum, American government uses freedoms to attain success.

3. Democracy was built on equality and thus abolished aristocratic principles and the English law of inheritance.

The family represents the estate, the estate the family,- whose name, together with its origin, its glory, its power, and its virtues, is thus perpetuated in an imperishable memorial of the past and a sure pledge of the future. When the equal partition of property is established by law, the intimate connection is destroyed between family feeling and the preservation of the paternal estate; the property ceases to represent the family. (p. 51)

Democracy founded the law of partible inheritance where there was an equal partition of property. The family s connection to their estate and preservation of their paternal estate is no longer allowed though America s new principal of equality. Everyone is equal and as such neither has more property or riches than the other unless they have worked for it because everyone starts at ground level. Also, each is as entitled to property as anyone else. Inheritance becomes obsolete.

4. The law of partible inheritance makes it hard for rich families to maintain their wealth.

The law of partible inheritance renders it difficult for families to preserve their ancestral domains entire…the law succeeds in striking at the root of landed property, and dispersing rapidly both families and fortunes. (p. 52)

This is where Tocqueville introduces the idea of the Great American dream. People come to America in search of wealth and the opportunities to become wealthy.

Tocqueville points out the two principle methods of attaining wealth. The first is education, which is available to everyone. Primary instruction is within the reach of everybody. (p. 53) The second method is though hard labor. The creed that your dreams are attainable if you work hard enough is very well highlighted by Tocqueville. Alluding to the fact that wealth is not gotten easily is Tocqueville s statement that nearly all Americans have to take a profession. (p. 53)

5. Americans value worldly comforts and pride themselves in making it their lifetime goal to attain such gratification.

The passion for physical comforts is essentially a passion of the middle classes; with those classes it grows and spreads, with them it ponderates. (p. 210)

Again, Tocqueville alludes to the Great American Dream. Americans are a people who realize that individuals posses within them the power to

create a better life for themselves. If you come from a poor family you don t have to stay there. And once Americans have accomplished what they set out to do by attaining a higher social status, they can enjoy their comfortable living in peace, owing nothing to no one. Tocqueville mentions, Their minds are, as it were, intoxicated by the small enjoyments which they have pursued for forty years. (p. 211)

6. There will be less and less wars as social conditions of nations become more equal.

The warlike passions will become more rare and less intense in proportion as social conditions shall be more equal. (p. 273)

The decline in wars is true. Now days government resorts to wars and military confrontation as a last resort after negotiation has been tried. That s why there are so many negotiating committees and global meetings held when a problem arises among the various nations. In fact the United Nations was established for the very reason of avoiding wars when possible.

7. Democratic government brings about more good to a nation than Aristocratic government.

In aristocratic governments, public men may frequently do harm without intending it; and in democratic states, they bring about good results which they never thought of. (p. 102)

Democratic government listens to people s wants and desires assume if many want it, it must be good. Aristocratic government a minority of the population assumes that it is good for the country instead of consulting with the people first.

8. American men esteem women far more than European men.

Even in the flattery which men lavish upon women: although a European frequently affects to be the slave of woman, it may be seen that he never sincerely thinks her his equal. In the United States, men seldom compliment women, but they daily show how much they esteem them.

Tocqueville sees through the shallowness of his fellow Europeans and points out the great esteem Americans show to women on a daily basis. Through utter respect for a woman s difference in opinion and holding her to be equal in intellectual ability, Americans demonstrate higher esteem for women than Europeans do. They constantly display an entire confidence in the understanding of a wife, and a profound respect for her freedom. (p. 244-245)

Europeans perceive women to be lower in rank than men. This is demonstrated in their male dominated society. Women are not granted equal freedoms in voting and speech as they are in America. Europeans superficially seem to esteem women by using flattery but everyone knows that actions speak louder than words.

9. In order for a nation to find peace its military power must be feared.

I foresee that all the military rulers who may rise up in great democratic nations will find it easier to conquer with their armies, than to make their armies live at peace after conquest. (p. 277)

The United States is the most powerful nation in the world, militarily and economically speaking. When another country starts to make trouble, the United States military is ready to jump in and be the referee official.

10. Democratic nations should fear the type of despotism that concentrates all the rule of the nation in one irresponsible person or group of people.

Of all the forms which democratic despotism could assume, the latter (concentrated all the powers of government, should vest them in the hands of an irresponsible person or body of persons) would assuredly be the worst. (p. 304)

Tocqueville alludes to the advantage of having a democratic society. Because under a democratic society this type of despotism would not even be an issue. If democracy is the bases for government, one would never be afraid of the type of depotism that involves concentrated rule of irresponsible people because democracy endeavors itself to making sure rulers are appointed by the people. Tyrannical leaders most often only come into power because they takeover the nation by their own doing, not because the nation elected them into power.


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