Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Reading Desk.

I think I've mentioned before whats on my reading desk. Usually it's a pile of paperbacks, science fiction or fantasy mostly, waiting to be read or reread. I have a bunch of standards that I like that I try to reread every year or two.

Right now, I've thrown away my always read from the top of the pile rule and started in on Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. The title is two volumes detailing what this Frenchman found on examining the democratic and republican practices in 1830's America. He came over to this side of the Atlantic ostensibly to study the American penal system. But instead he published a series of books that examined the state of the system of government that our founding fathers had established and had grown over 50 years of peaceful development.

Our country had yet to be tested by the Civil War or any of the world wars that were to follow. Many at the time wondered if this form government and rule of law was strong enough to survive a trial of that magnitude.

Anyway, I'm just starting on these volumes, but one thing caught my attention from his foreword. De Tocqueville writes:
"Men are not corrupted by the exercise of power or debased by the habit of obedience, but by the exercise of power which they believe to be illegal and by obedience to a rule which they consider to be usurped and oppressive."

I'm finding in many ways that de Tocqueville's thought and opinions are sort of a precursor to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. He, much like Ms. Rand, thought that democracy can only last until the people start voting themselves largess's from the government treasury.

Something else that he wrote about in his foreword. He advanced the theory that democracy is the form of governance that all societies move towards. He took France and England from the 11th century through the modern era as his examples. Stating that gradual adoption of the principles of democracy into local and town governments were the natural course.

I'm left wondering, based upon today's societies both here in America and around the world if de Tocqueville might have been a little optimistic there. I see a tendency towards Absolutism rather than democracy as the unpiloted course. And yes, I'm looking at society here in the states.

These are just my initial thoughts on the first few chapters of Alexis de Tocquevill's books. I'll try to update you on what I read and what I think about it as I get farther into them.


Old NFO said...

Interesting, sounds like I need to get a copy!

Doc said...

Me, too.