Tag Archives: Alexis de Tocqueville

The evils of democracy and the mob: Quotes from some of the greatest minds in history.

Fisher Ames: “A democracy is a volcano, which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction. These will produce an eruption, and carry desolation in their way.”

John Jay: “Pure democracy, like pure rum, easily produces intoxication, and with it a thousand mad pranks and fooleries.”

Lord Acton: “The one prevailing evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.”

George Washington: “It is one of the evils of democratical governments, that the people, not always seeing and frequently misled, must often feel before they can act.”

Alexander Hamilton: “If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy.”

Alexander Hamilton: “Real liberty is neither found in despotism, nor in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.”

James Madison: “Where a majority are united by a common sentiment, and have an opportunity, the rights of the minor party become insecure.”

James Madison: “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”

Alexis de Tocqueville: “The will of the nation is one of those phrases most widely abused by schemers and tyrants of all ages.”

Cicero: “No tempest or conflagration, however great, is harder to quell than mob carried away by the novelty of power.”

Cicero: “This excessive licence, which the anarchists think is the only true freedom, provides the stock, as it were, from which a tyrant grows.”

Plato: “Is it not the excess and greed of this and the neglect of all other things that revolutionizes this constitution too and prepares the way for the necessity of a dictatorship?”

Plato: “And is it not true that in like manner a leader of the people who, getting control of a docile mob, does not withhold his hand from the shedding of tribal blood, but by the customary unjust accusations brings a citizen into court and assassinates him, blotting out a human life, and with unhallowed tongue and lips that have tasted kindred blood, banishes and slays and hints at the abolition of debts and the partition of lands.”

Plato: “And a democracy, I suppose, comes into being when the poor, winning the victory, put to death some of the other party, drive out others, and grant the rest of the citizens an equal share in both citizenship and offices.”

Plato called democracy “a delightful form of government, anarchic and motley, assigning a kind of equality indiscriminately to equals and unequals alike!”

Polybius: “And hence when by their foolish thirst for reputation they have created among the masses an appetite for gifts and the habit of receiving them, democracy in its turn is abolished and changes into a rule of force and violence. For the people, having grown accustomed to feed at the expense of others and to depend for their livelihood on the property of others, as soon as they find a leader who is enterprising but is excluded from the houses of office by his penury, institute the rule of violence; and now uniting their forces massacre, banish, and plunder, until they degenerate again into perfect savages and find once more a master and monarch.”

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Jaywalking: Libertarianism in New York City

Everybody knows that New York City is a major center of liberal ideology. A number of New Yorkers decided to remind Glenn Beck of that fact a few weeks back.

But while the residents of New York think liberal, they often act libertarian. Just go to any Manhattan street corner. The government in its wisdom and kindness has install lights that tell the people of New York whether they are to WALK or DON’T WALK. Clearly, any liberal would tell you that such signs are necessary to create order and protect pedestrians from oncoming traffic.

But reality is very different. As half those signs glow DON’T WALK, dozens of people are crossing against the government’s advice. The people of New York realize that they don’t the government to tell them when to cross. They can just look for themselves, see if a car is coming, and decide for themselves. People don’t need the government to organize every aspect of their lives.

In the movie Keeping the Faith, the two main characters are waiting at a corner for a traffic light. The scene, meant to be a metaphor about life and faith, could also be a metaphor about politics and government.

 What the– Why are you standing here?

Oh, my God. You’re right. What am I doing? What am I doing standing here?

Sign hasn’t changed.

– Oh, my God. – This is New York City. Who waits for a sign?

What– Cross the damn street! What, do we all need signs to tell us what to do now?

God does not always give us a sign what to do. We certainly don’t always need signs from the government.

“Men must walk in freedom, responsible for their own behaviour.”  Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

— Michael E. Newton is the author of the highly acclaimed The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny. His newest book, Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers: The Fight for Control of the American Revolution, was released by Eleftheria Publishing in July.

Tocqueville on why people demand equality over freedom

From Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (page 585 in my edition):

The advantages of liberty become visible only in the long term and it is always easy to mistake the cause which brought them about. The advantages of equality are felt immediately and you can observe where they come from daily.

Tocqueville on value of religion to society and government

“The reign of liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without beliefs.”

“Since religion has lost its sway over men’s soul, the most obvious boundary between good and evil has been overthrown; in the realm of morality, everything seems doubtful and uncertain: kings and nations go forward at random and no one can say where the natural limits of despotism and the boundaries of license are to be found.”

“When a nation’s religion is destroyed, doubt takes a grip upon the highest areas of intelligence, partially paralyzing all the others.  Each man gets used to having only confused and vacillating ideas on matters which have the greatest interest for himself and his fellows.  He puts up a poor defense of his opinions or abandons them and, as he despairs of ever resolving by himself the greatest problems presented by human destiny, he beats a cowardly retreat into not thinking at all.”

*Quotes from Tocqueville’s Democracy in America