Democracy In America Essay, Research Paper
Political Science 354
American Political Thought
Mid-Term Examination # 2
I am told that some of you think I support uncritically America s experiment in democratic government and society. Tonight I want to set the record straight, not only have I criticized some aspects of American Democracy but also I have put pen to paper on weaknesses of these aspects in my volumes, Democracy in America. At the root of these weaknesses is the inability of democratic peoples to make well-reasoned, dispassionate choices. This weakness is due for the most part to the tendency of democratic peoples to be swayed more by whims and passions than by reason. The results of the people s whimsical nature are evident in several areas: the election of government officials, the inefficient use of money, and the lack of skill in conducting foreign affairs, fear of majority tyranny, and inequality of the races.
First, in choosing government officials, democracies have a double problem: the people tend to choose poorly because their passion for equality makes them dislike those who are superior, and those who have the capacity to rule do not want the position it is unstable and has few rewards. The means of counteracting this problem is, for the most part, good mores, formed especially by good education in virtue and the experience of local liberties.
Second, democracies tend to waste a lot of money because the people, governed more by impulse than by reason, embark on a wide range of projects and explore every possible innovation, most of which are impractical and many of which are never even finished because people tire of an idea when it ceases to become a novelty. The poor, being in the majority, are the ones who can have the largest influence on laws. As a result, taxes tend to be high because the poor are exempt from them and receive the greatest benefit from government services.
Third, Conducting foreign affairs well requires patience, reason, and fortitude, but in democracies people feel more strongly than they reason; and if present ills are great, it is to be feared that they will forget the greater evils that perhaps await them in case of defeat. On a personal level, the citizens tend have little capacity for sustained self-sacrifice, a necessary requirement for winning a war.
Furthermore, I am especially troubled by the tendency of democracies to succumb to the tyranny of the majority, a tyranny no less real and no less terrible than an autocratic tyranny. In the United States, where the principle of the sovereignty of the people reigns supreme, the force of the majority is overpowering. The rule of the majority in America is living proof that majority’s power is well out of proportion with its wisdom and justice. In Democracy in America, I argue that religion corrects many of the prominent flaws of democracy individualism, materialism, lack of stability, and the tendency to misuse or undervalue liberty while the separation of church and state helps religion to maintain and even increase its influence in society.
Finally, racism reflects every aspect of American society. For in the United States, the European, the Negro and Indian coexist uneasily, with the Europeans dominating the other races tyrannically. The situation of the Negroes has led them to a state of submission and demoralization, while the Indians have remained independent but their civilization has split up and has consequently degenerated. The Indian tribes are gradually disappearing from America as a result of pressure from the white man and encroachment on their land by settlers. The Indian race seems doomed to perish because they do not want to assimilate themselves and is not strong enough to prevent the European’s takeover. The Indians are equally intelligent, but simply have a different social state and way of life incompatible with European civilization.
But, it is the presence of blacks that is the greatest danger threatening the United States. Abolishing slavery will be extremely difficult because they will not be able to blend easily with the rest of the population. Even in areas where legal barriers are coming down, prejudices seem immovable. Slavery was abolished in the North only because it was not profitable there. Even if they wanted to, the southerners would have difficulty abolishing slavery because they are afraid of the high proportion of blacks in the South. The only possibility for the future is that blacks and whites must completely mingle or completely separate. The first possibility seems nearly impossible. To solve the problem the southerners need either to free the slaves and accept them as equal members of society or to keep them in slavery as long as possible. In the end the blacks will either be freed or seize freedom themselves, but the consequences for the whites do not look promising.
So tonight I have set the record straight, my support of America s experiment in democratic government and society is not without criticism. But, we French can learn from America s obvious dangers lurking in their democratic tendency to follow the passions rather than reason, the election of government officials, their inefficient use of money, and their lack of skill in conducting foreign affairs, fear of majority tyranny, and inequality of the races. America may be fortunate to have time to fix its mistakes because there is no immediate danger threatening it. Yet this inability to see the truth may be a problem hurts their society internally in the long run.