Thursday, March 29, 2007

Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America

de Tocqueville noted, "... men can never live in society without embarking in some common undertakings ..." But he also wrote:

"[Americans] are less reluctant, however, to join political associations, which appear to them to be without danger because they risk no money in them. But they cannot belong to these associations for any length of time without finding out how order is maintained among a large number of men and by what contrivance they are made to advance, harmoniously and methodically, to the same object." (my emphasis)

The purpose of this web site is not to suggest the abolition of political parties. As de Tocqueville (and the Founders) observed, people will always tend to associate for "some common undertakings." This is natural and important to any form of democracy. It is ensconced in the concept of the people being able to petition their government for redress of grievances. When they speak with a collective, loud voice, they can be heard.

But as de Tocqueville asserted, members of an association of enough size to be heard should take note of the apparent necessity that "order [be] maintained." In other words, leaders begin to control the direction and message of the association; otherwise, it is argued, mayhem will ensue. So soon, a member of the association finds himself between the proverbial rock and hard place, because in leaving the association, he loses power; in staying, he loses control of his message.

Additionally, the association member must decide whether he wishes to dirty his hands in the "contrivance[s]" parties engage in "to advance, harmoniously and methodically, to the same object."

Which all leads us back to Madison and the Federalist #10 arguments for controlling factions. Yes, they are natural. And yes, they will lead to contrivances for getting their way in public policy. But, should they be allowed to control elections and government function? No.

Association is guaranteed by the constitution. But nowhere in that document or any other from the Founders can it be found any suggestion that those associations be allowed to control our government. In fact, an honest reading of the Founders clearly notes that those associations should be maintained at arm's length from the reigns of power.

Otherwise, tyranny of the majority is to follow ...

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