ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE ON “DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA” c. 2016
It was first forecast by Alexis DeTocqueville in 1840 and has been a long time coming, but the strangulation of the American economy – and polity – is clearly following the path laid out in his timeless analysis of how democracies are likely to evolve. Read the excerpts below from volume II of “Democracy in America.”
I was driven to reread this classic treatise on political reality by a recent in-depth survey of the Obama Administration’s use of executive power by two New York Times reporters. It was entitled “How the President Came to Embrace Executive Power.” The authors’ conclusion: “Mr. Obama will leave the White House as one of the most prolific authors of major regulations in Presidential history” - despite professing deep misgivings about using executive power as a presidential candidate.
Vague Congressional legislation (a long-standing stimulus for expansive regulation), enthusiastic Assistant Secretaries in the various Cabinet departments, and a White House eager to “do something” have led to 560 major federal regulations, so far, in the Obama administration. They deal with, for example, healthcare, financial activity, “clean air,” workplace protections, “equal rights,” airline delays, visiting rights for same sex partner visitors in hospitals and transgender bathrooms.
Herewith a few choice observations by that astute traveler to America nearly two hundred years ago, taken from volume II of Arlington House’s edition of “Democracy in America”:
“In the democratic ages which are opening upon us . . . centralization will be the natural form of government.”
“Every central power which follows its natural tendencies courts and encourages the principle of equality; for equality singularly facilitates, extends, and secures the influence of central power.”
“The sole condition which is required in order to succeed in centralizing the supreme power in a democratic society is to love equality, or to get men to believe you love it.”
“[Entrepreneurs] may be ready to admit, as a general principle, that the public authority ought not to interfere in private concerns; but, by an exception to that rule, each of them craves for its assistance in the particular concern on which he is engaged, and seeks to draw upon the influence of government for his own benefit, though he would restrict it on other occasions.”
Might it be possible to reverse or just arrest this drift towards centralization and regulatory despotism? Probably not; but one long shot initiative that well-endowed private citizens could take has been suggested by Charles Murray, in "By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, summarized in an earlier blog. Read it.