Adonis Diaries

Democracy in America? A French social scientist observations in the 18th century

Posted on: July 31, 2016

Democracy in America?  By Alexis de Tocqueville

A French social scientist observations in the 18th century

Alexis de Tocqueville may be considered the first modern social scientist by the mechanisms he developed to explain political, economical and social phenomena in various political systems.

“Every morning, I find that somebody has just discovered some general and eternal law that I never heard of. General ideas that pack a lot into a small volume”.

“The exaggerated social system based on general causes is a source of consolation for mediocre historians ( and current reporters). It invariably provides them with a few grand explanations, useful for quickly extricate themselves from any difficulties they encounter in their work. And it favors weak and lazy minds to garner a reputation of profundity”. How fitting for current times.

“In the rare centuries of doubt (rational trends dominate), people cling stubbornly to his belief systems. People are Not ready to die for their opinions, but they do Not change them. And you find both fewer martyrs and fewer apostates”

The problem in this period of doubt, certain categories of communities are transforming it into a century of horror stories of faith.

Beware of the tyranny of the majority in “democratic republics”:

“The Master no longer says: You will think as I do or die. He says: You are free Not to think as I do. You may keep your life, properties, retain your civic privileges… but the majority in your community will ostracize you and refuse to esteem you, or to demand your vote. Those who believe in your innocence will steer away from you lest they are shunned in turn”

Isn’t what happens to Whistler blowers? At the doors of Abortion clinics, or gay marriages…? In France they even deny him the citizenship.

Alexis borrowed in Montaigne and Pascal views on ignorance:  “It may be plausibly asserted that there is an infant-school ignorance which precedes knowledge and another doctoral ignorance which comes after it” (Montaigne).

This is the state of education affairs in the Arabic speaking Islamic countries: coranic schools and doctors in fikh and other religious degrees… Ignorance lies at the ends of knowledge

“When an opinion takes hold in a “democratic” nation and establishes itself in a majority of minds, it becomes self-sustaining and can perpetuate itself without effort: Nobody will attack it. No one combat the doomed belief openly. This hollow ghost of public opinion is enough to chill the blood of would-be innovators (in political sphere) and reduces them to respectful silence”

“The American life-style is to take short-cuts by adopting general, all-purpose ideas: They are bombarded with so many individualistic responsibilities that they lack the necessary leisure time to indulge in reflective time-consuming periods”

An observation that was valid 2 centuries ago and worsening. Worse, spreading like wild fire all over the world and in Asia.

“The Americans seldom admit that they give in to selfless altruistic endeavors: They are pleased to explain all their actions in terms of self-interest properly understood. They will obligingly demonstrate how enlightened their behaviors regularly lead them to help out one another and makes them ready and willing to sacrifice a portion of their time and wealth for the good of the State”.

“The norms make a difference and they cannot be switched at will: either your norms are of the “honor kinds” or of the “material interest”

Prisoner’s Dilemma” of two persons involved in the same crime:

1. If you inform on the other, and the other refuses to inform on you, you are set free

2. If both inform on one another, both get 5-year prison term

3. If both refuse to inform, both get a year prison term.

The rationale of this Dilemma is used to explain:

1.The weakness of public institutions: people want strong institutions but refuse to pay the necessary taxes

2. The case of lobbying interest. Ironically, the more the number of lobbies, the more the central power imperceptibly expand, which the lobbies don’t want

3. The more frequent the number of private bankruptcies (risk takers) the more the State/casino win. Thus, the lack of stigma in bankruptcy.

“Politicians have this capacity to manage the creation of ephemeral convictions in accordance with the feelings and interests of the moments: They can, with a tolerable good conscience, do things that are far from honest”

“Individualism is a recent expression, a reflective and tranquil sentiment achieved by creating a small community (modern tribe) for his use. he gladly leaves the larger society to take care of itself”

Americans want the Union, but reduced to a shadow: they want it strong in few case and weak in most case, particularly in period of peace”

Is that why the US government launch frequent pre-emptive wars outside its boundaries?

“The aristocratic families would willingly preserve the democratic habits of the (political system) if only they could reject its social state and laws”

Actually, the elite classes always succeed in circumventing the few laws that theoretically could have been applied to them.

Every morning, I find that somebody has just discovered some general and eternal law that I never heard of. General ideas that pack a lot into a small volume.

Note 1: I read Democracy in America and the Ancient Regime (France before the revolution) in their originals many years ago.  It is striking that the Revolution in France didn’t have to change anything in the administrative structure of the ancient regime.

Note 2: And the “professionals” who are researching details and facts on the ground are rare because Not paid to do these dirty fundamental jobs. What irks me most is that scientific papers fail to extend additional hypotheses and conjectures to what they have researched in order for the rest of us to follow up and demonstrate them

Note 3: Traditions of classes, professions, family and social structure, and religious beliefs… have been initially drawn from observations of human nature and establishing general notions, before the politicians (men of actions) in each sphere of influence in life organized them to self-serve the interests of the elites.

If we seek reforms by bringing up human nature then we are following the wrong direction. What is needed is to develop a belief system based on that all born people have the rights to enjoy equal opportunities to learning, getting training, health and due processes with a fair justice system. This new belief system or petition principle is feasible because in transparent democratic processes people rely on the majority opinion to extend any rational excuses for their attitudes.

Equal practical opportunities circumvent the wrong implication that opinions are reached independently of their surrounding. The effects of community sanctions to deviation attitudes from the belief system can then formalize the equal opportunities rights to everyone.

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