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Mourning Tocqueville

Yesterday marked the 153rd anniversary of the death of Alexis de Tocqueville, the extraordinary biographer of America, in all its splendor and its deficiencies. His principal virtue was his insight that liberty-smothering bureaucracy--what he termed "centralized administration"--was at the core of contemporary ills, and it would worsen, as this scandal  (more serious than the GSA) reminds us.

This Tocqueville anniversary coincides with the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson's bold attack on the American founders and his celebration of the administrative state, "What is Progress?" The presidential campaign address also proclaimed the need for Darwinian science to form the basis of our political science. The contrast between Wilson--who equated democracy and socialism--and Tocqueville, who denied such equivalence is most instructive.

Obama's ill-informed attribution of "Darwinism" to Paul Ryan, et al. flies in the face of his own Progressive, Darwinian assumptions, which repudiate constitutional government and justify tyranny.

A few years ago Diana Schaub penned a typically elegant essay on the anniversary of Tocqueville's death.

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Discussions - 13 Comments

The Most Intelligent President ever is sucking the American taxpayer dry with his reckless, stupid, out- of-control spending, socialist and liberalism-is- a- mental illness ideology.

Why should anyone working for him such as those federal employees at the GSA do anything different? Obviously what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

After all, Obama's buddy's company Berkshire Hathaway owes a billion in taxes to the IRS, 41 of Obama's administrative staff owe over a billion dollars in taxes and Obama and his wife Michelle pay only 20% in taxes on an income of almost $800,000.

Obama is working on putting American in the same crap hole that the PIIGS in Europe are now wading around. Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy and Greece. Spain is going to explode into debt thanks to broken socialist and liberalism mental illness that bleeds red in Europe. After all the black/white President Obama repeatedly said that he wanted America to look more like Europe. Geez thanks dude for putting America in the same cesspool that Europe is wading around in.

Obama's ill-informed attribution of "Darwinism to Paul Ryan is his only ill-informed attribution. That is just scratching the surface of his mentally ill ideology.

Whenever I'm asked to name the greatest books I've ever read, I always include "Democracy in America."

This Tocqueville anniversary coincides with the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson's bold attack on the American founders and his celebration of the administrative state, "What is Progress?" The presidential campaign address also proclaimed the need for Darwinian science to form the basis of our political science. The contrast between Wilson--who equated democracy and socialism--and Tocqueville, who denied such equivalence is most instructive.

If you actually read "What is Progress" you discover the following:

1. The former President of Princeton University had remarkably unadorned prose.

2. He was lacking in concision.

3. The most substantive paragraph suggested that the body of commercial law was in need of adaptive changes.

4. Much verbiage was devoted to a delineation of competing metaphors.

5. No one was attacked.

6. No specific policies were advocated at all.

---

While we are at it, both the President and Eugene Victor Debs might have been surprised to discover that the former equated 'democracy' with 'socialism'.

Did you or the characters at Heritage who posted this brief piece (which is not an 'essay', but more like a diary entry) draw any implications from the fact that it was unpublished or that the author (with a notable lack of economy) is describing a set of political contentions, not adhering to any of them?

Yes, the essay was unpublished--but is there anything in Wilson's political science that contradicts it? In fact, this explains a great deal about him.

Debs: So, Wilson was opportunistic. He jailed German-Americans or anyone else who got in his way.

"What is Progress?" was a campaign address. It was also an open attack on the Declaration of Independence. By weakening its force in American life, the way for a lot of mischief is opened up--as we saw in FDR.

There is no attack on the Declaration of Independence, merely a discussion of the disjunction between its more particular points and contemporary problems.


Debs: So, Wilson was opportunistic. He jailed German-Americans or anyone else who got in his way.

Perfectly non sequitur.

Policy initiatives of the Wilson Administration included central banking, elaborations on anti-trust law, and the introduction of a small income tax. All of these are incremental adjustments to the existing political economy, not what E.V. Debs had in mind. The ratio of federal expenditure to domestic product prior to the 1st World War was around about .014. It was nearly 10x that during the war, but nine-tenths of that was devoted to the military (not what Debs had in mind either).


but is there anything in Wilson's political science that contradicts it? In fact, this explains a great deal about him.

No it does not. He is elaborating on a political taxonomy, not arguing for one or another social system.


By weakening its force in American life, the way for a lot of mischief is opened up--as we saw in FDR.

You are a subscriber to a meme theory of history, which is too bad.

Mr. Roosevelt and his crew were stuck with the task of responding to an array of acute economic and social problems. They would still have been stuck with these challenges if none of them had bothered to read one word of Dr. Wilson's gassy speeches.

FDR referred to WW in his 1932 nomination acceptance speech as "our commander-in-chief"--he knew Wilson was demanding--and largely got--a political revolution. We live under that regime. Politicians are actually much less pragmatic than they think--in fact, they think abstractly, or theoretically, as modern people do.

Wilson started small, but thought big. WW I was a hindrance (and an opportunity, too).

There was no revolution during the Wilson Administration. Repetitive assertion does not make it so. A posthumous courtesy from a Wilson Administration official does not make it so either.

The distance from Washington's Farewell Address to Wilson's war message, and from the Declaration to "What is Progress?" is revolutionary, no matter how often that is denied. The policies can't be understood apart from their purpose. Some people regard Obama as a pragmatist.

The distance from Washington's Farewell Address to Wilson's war message, and from the Declaration to "What is Progress?" is revolutionary, no matter how often that is denied.

Go back and read it. It is 90% air. The only thing that renders it 'revolutionary' is your intention to see it as such.

It may be air, but it exerts confisderable influence over the way Americans think about foreign poilcy and their citizenship.

Find one person in a hundred who can remember having ever read it, much less been influenced by it.

FDR, JFK, Reagan, Bush, et al.

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