Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Biography of Alexis de Tocqueville

From Libertarianism:
Tocqueville was a good listener with a keen memory.  He had a remarkable mind capable of discerning trends which almost all his contemporaries missed. He drew shrewd lessons from experience. He envisioned the insidious long-term consequences of government intervention. To be sure, as a member of the landed gentry who earned most of his income from tenant farmers, Tocqueville shared the usual aristocratic prejudices against business enterprise. He hardly uttered a word about the industrial revolution which enabled millions to avoid starvation. He worked long hours completing important books despite health problems which plagued him. He suffered migraine headaches, neuralgia and stomach cramps lasting a week at a time. Undoubtedly these afflictions were a major reason why he was often irritable. In his books, Tocqueville seems like a realist, yet his letters suggest he was a romantic who dreamed of great adventures and endured bouts of depression. At 19, he wrote a friend that he wished “to roam about for the rest of time.” When he was nearly 30, after Democracy in America became a hit, he lamented: “Oh! How I wish that Providence would present me with an opportunity to use, in order to accomplish good and grand things…this internal flame I feel within me that does not know where to find what feeds it.” At 41: “Perhaps a moment will come in which the action we will undertake can be glorious.” (Read more.)

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