But, while we do not share all the apprehensions of M. de Tocqueville from the unwillingness of the people to be guided by superior wisdom, and while this source of evil tells for very little with us in the comparison between democracy and aristocracy, we consider our author entitled to applause and gratitude for having probed this subject so unsparingly, and given us so striking a picture of his own impressions; and we are clearly of opinion that his fears, whether excessive or not, are in the right place. If democracy should disappoint any of the expectations of its more enlightened partisans, it will be from the substitution of delegation for representation; of the crude and necessarily superficial judgment of the people themselves, for the judgment of those whom the people, having confidence in their honesty, have selected as the wisest guardians whose services they could command. All the chances unfavourable to democracy lie here; and whether the danger be much or little, all who see it ought to unite their efforts to reduce it to the
This latest book is therefore a must read for anyone who cares about this country, its tottering economy, and–most important– what’s now left of its democracy.”–Mark Crispin Miller, author, professor of media ecology, New York University.
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The most rational argument which we can conceive, for the exclusion of those who are called persons of no property, would be founded, not on inferiority of intellect, but on difference in apparent interest. All classes (it might be said) are in a most imperfect state of intelligence and knowledge; so much so, that they cannot be expected to be, and, as experience shows, hardly ever are, accessible to any views of their own ultimate interest which rest upon a train of reasoning. Since, then, it is certain that those who enjoy the franchise will exercise it in the manner dictated, not by their real and distant, but by their apparent and immediate interest, let us at least select, as the depositaries of power, those whose apparent and immediate interest is allied with the great principles on which society rests, the security of property, and the maintenance of the authority of law. These, we are sure, are safe in the hands of the possessors of property: an equal regard for them on the part of those without property would suppose a much higher degree of intelligence, since the latter benefit by them so much less obviously and directly, though not less really, than the former.
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When the enemies of democracy affirm that a single person does better what he undertakes, than the government of All, they seem to me to be in the right. The government of One, if we suppose on both sides equality of instruction, has more in its undertakings than the multitude, it shows more perseverance, a more comprehensive plan, more perfection in the details, a juster discernment in the selection of individuals. Those who deny these things have never seen a democratic republic, or have judged of it from a small number of examples. Democracy, even where local circumstances and the state of the people’s minds permit it to subsist, does not present a spectacle of administrative regularity and methodical order in the government—that is true. Democratic freedom does not execute each of its enterprises with the same perfection as an intelligent despotism. It often abandons them without having reaped their fruit, or undertakes such as are perilous. But in the long run it produces greater results, it does less well each particular thing, but it does a greater number of things. Under its empire, what is truly great is, not what the public administration does, but what is done without it, and independently of its aid. Democracy does not give to the people the most skilful government, but it does what the most skilful government is often unable to do,—it diffuses through all society a restless activity, a superabundance of force, an energy, which never exist where democracy is not, and which, wherever circumstances are at all favourable, may give birth to prodigies. Therein consist its true advantages.