Tocqueville "Democracy In America" Essay

1036 words - 4 pages

Tocqueville's "Democracy In America" is an examination of the United State's form of democracy. His main distinction is between the actual concept of democracy, and what in fact exists in America. From the first section of our reading, "Tyranny of the Majority" it is clear that America does not have a direct democracy, where all have equal say and voting rights, but rather is ruled by the majority. He starts out by stating that "a people has a right to do whatsoever it pleases; and yet I have asserted that all authority originates in the will of the majority" (Tocqueville, page 547). This in itself is a contradiction, and illustrates very clearly his overall thoughts on American democracy: that while we think we have a democracy, we are in fact slaves to the majority. And it is all encompassing; with regards to opinion and speech, our concepts of equality and liberty, our rights to work and have property, and permeates into all forms of our government. It is especially telling, that many of the aspects of the American majoritarian rule he describes, exist even to this day.Majoritarian rule is clearly an incorrect fragmentation of democracy, and Tocqueville furthers the ideas of past theorists we have studied in the idea that if man can abuse power, he will: "a man possessing absolute power, may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries." He expounds this point as applying to majorities, questioning "why should a majority not be liable to the same reproach?" (Tocqueville, page 547).Americans, according to Tocqueville, believe that we have solved the problem the influence of a certain faction taking control by splitting up our government, or by having what Tocqueville calls a "mixed government." However, a government cannot have a mixed government, with several principles because one will ultimately dominate over the rest. This is what has happened in America, because we have "inadequate securities which exist against tyranny" (Tocqueville, page 548) and this is evident in the very structure of our government. In our separation of powers we have an executive branch, a legislative branch, and judicial branch, but they are all elected, when it comes down to it, by a majority. He states a solution to this problem:If, on the other hand, a legislative power could be so constituted as to represent the majority without necessarily being the slave of its passions, an executive so as to retain certain degree of uncontrolled authority; and a judiciary, so as to remain independent of the two other power a government would be formed which would still be democratic, without incurring any risk of tyrannical abuse. (Tocqueville, page 549).But as we can see in America, this is not the case. Majority rule has control of all the powers, so the leading social faction has the ability to take control, and suppress a minority group, even individual citizens.Such is the case in public opinion, and our concept of free speech. While we have the ability to say anything...

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