Tocqueville was a Frenchman who was interested in America and its democratic design. He spoke of his observations about America in his book, Democracy in America. Tocqueville’s attitudes towards Americans seem to be very appreciative. He saw democracy as a perfect balance between freedom and equality. Yet, while he is appreciative, he is also quite critical of some of the effects of democracy in America. Tocqueville believed that there were some faults with democracy and states them in his book.
One of these faults that Tocqueville discusses is the influence that democracy has on America. Democracy gives everyone the chance to have their say in their government. Americans believe that democracy is a great thing. However, Tocqueville discussed the influences that this worship of democracy has created. For instance, Tocqueville states how Americans did not consider philosophy to be important and have no philosophical school of their own. Yet, even without much attention paid to philosophy, Americans all think similarly. This similar philosophy is using the same method of depending on their own understanding and opinion to make decisions. Tocqueville believed that this method is used by Americans because of an aversion they have to accepting things solely because authorities say to and instead they the need to think for themselves. Instead of accepting what the authorities say, Americans believe that nothing is impossible to understand and everything can be explained through using a person’s own judgment about things. This reliance on a person’s judgment also leads to Americans having a distrust of all things supernatural. Tocqueville’s observations here seem to be quite critical and appear to look at American’s reverence for their judgment with derision.
He then goes on to describe why this constant distrust is such a problem. Tocqueville believed that all societies need some sort of dogmatic beliefs. Dogmatic beliefs are principles set down by an authority as an unyielding truth. He believes in this need for authoritative truth because when groups of individuals don’t share beliefs then there are not able to join together and mutual action is impossible. Without this collective group capable of mutual action a society cannot survive or even come into existence.
An additional problem that occurs from the influence of democracy is those problems that are produced because of the equality in America. Tocqueville realizes that the want of equality is a normal want. He writes of how France especially feels this desire. However, Tocqueville sees problems with equality when it is not perfect. When equality is perfect then it is pure freedom. However, when equality is flawed then tyranny can take root. He believed that equality causes men to overvalue their own and other humans’ skills to reason. Equality then causes people to be more willing to trust public opinion than they are willing to trust the ideas of an...