Things are different in America. There, the people rule unimpeded. They need fear no danger nor avenge any insult.
I had the opportunity to observe [universal suffrage’s] effects in various places and among races of men made virtual strangers to one another by language, religion, and mores. . .
. . .over the past half century the race of American statesmen has singularly shrunk in stature.
The Americans chose to brave the first evil [frequent elections] rather than the second [infrequent elections]. In this choice they were guided far more by instinct than by reason, because democracy stimulates the taste for variety to the point of passion. The result of this is a singular mutability in legislation.
I can imagine no one more straightforward in his actions, more accessible to all the world, more attentive to requests, or more civil in his answers than a public man in the United States. I like this natural style in the government of democracy; in the inner strength that attaches more to the office than to the official, more to the man than to outward signs of power, I see something virile, which I admire.
Men of great talent and towering passions generally avoid power in order to pursue wealth. And often a man will assume responsibility for the state only if he feels he has little gift for managing his own affairs. It is to these causes as much as to poor choices by the voters that one must attribute the large number of very ordinary men in public office. I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.
Nowhere has the law left more room for arbitrariness than in democratic republics, because there seems to be no need to be afraid of it. Indeed, it is fair to say that magistrates in democratic republics become freer as voting rights are extended down the social scale and terms of office made briefer.
In democratic societies, moreover, there exists an urge to do something even when the goal is not precise, a sort of permanent fever that turns to innovation of every kind. And innovations are almost always costly.
In democracies, high salaries are authorized by a very large number of people, few of whom will ever have the opportunity to receive such generous compensation. In aristocracies, on the other hand, the people who authorize high salaries almost always entertain vague hopes of profiting from them.
. . .humans, following Aristotle, were social animals. “Man was destined for society,” he wrote to nephew Peter Carr (August 10, 1787). “His morality therefore was to be transformed to this object.”
. . .that is, it aims at all citizens being as happy as possible. Yet it is not the function of government to make< citizens flourish by promoting any one vision of the good life, but merely to allow citizens abundant space to pursue their own course to happiness.>/b>
It is not sufficient for happiness that one is left alone. It is, for Jefferson, in some measure the task of government to secure citizens’ happiness through allowing the creation of social settings in which citizens can thrive.Holowchak, M. Andrew. Thomas Jefferson: Uncovering His Unique Philosophy and Vision . Prometheus Books. Kindle Edition.
But when one begins to study closely the secret instincts that govern factions in America, it is easy to see that most of them can be more or less accurately described as belonging to one of the two great parties that have always existed in free societies. The more deeply one enters into the intimate thoughts of these two parties, the clearer it becomes that one wants to limit the use of public power and the other to extend it.Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America (LOA #147) (Library of America) (p. 202 Vol1: Part 1, Ch 2 Parties in The United States). Library of America. Kindle Edition.
President James Madison expressed the same thought (see Federalist 51). “It is of great importance in a republic,” he says, “not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. . . . Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society.
Americans are taught from birth that they must overcome life’s woes and impediments on their own. Social authority makes them mistrustful and anxious, and they rely upon its power only when they cannot do without it. This first becomes apparent in the schools, where children play by their own rules and punish infractions they define themselves.Vol1: Part 2: Chapter 4On Politcal Association in the United States
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