Friday, July 4, 2008

Quotes from Alexis de Tocqueville

Here are some quotations from the writings of French historian and political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), author of Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution. He had some very shrewd insights.
~A democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it.

~All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it.

~America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

~Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.

~As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?

~Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.

~In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end.

~In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.

~In no other country in the world is the love of property keener or more alert than in the United States, and nowhere else does the majority display less inclination toward doctrines which in any way threaten the way property is owned.

~In the United States, the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own.

~Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.

~The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.

~The best laws cannot make a constitution work in spite of morals; morals can turn the worst laws to advantage. That is a commonplace truth, but one to which my studies are always bringing me back. It is the central point in my conception. I see it at the end of all my reflections.

~The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.

~The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.

~The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colours breaking through.

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