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Affluent Christian Investor | September 30, 2023

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Centralized Efforts Are Absurd

In his masterpiece Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville’s dismissal of centralized efforts to improve inequality is at the center of his thesis and his observations of America and the American people. He opens his treatise — in fact, the first sentence — with this very proposition: “Amongst the novel objects that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States, nothing struck me more forcibly than the general equality of conditions.”[1]  The “general equality of conditions” is Tocqueville’s term for what we would state today as equal opportunity, not equal outcome. This was, as Tocqueville explained, the very essence of why he wrote Democracy in America. Tocqueville also connected this utterly unique American phenomenon as a direct result of God’s providence in the religiousness of the American people, productivity, and, of course, property rights. Tocqueville further explains:

“As soon as land was held on any other than a feudal tenure, and personal property began in its turn to confer influence and power, every improvement which was introduced in commerce or manufacture was a fresh element of the equality of condition. Henceforward every new discovery, every new want which it engendered, and every new desire which craved satisfaction, was a step towards the universal level. The taste for luxury, the love of war, the sway of fashion, and the most superficial as well as the deepest passion of the human heart, co-operated to enrich the poor and to impoverish the rich.[2]


Inequality in outcome is part of God’s design, as we are all given different strengths and weaknesses – this is God’s plan.  But in America, we are all given equal opportunity to express what talents and gifts we do have. Tocqueville’s extensive observations revealed, “The gifts of intellect proceed directly from God, and man cannot prevent their unequal distribution… although the capacities of men are widely different, as the Creator has doubtless intended they should be.”[3]

Progressives and collectivists dismiss this notion observed by Tocqueville, and even more often have utter contempt for this part of God’s plan. Unfortunately, as history has continually shown, ignoring God’s intention and design comes at great expenses and societal damage. Most often the collectivist progressives care less on the human suffrage they inflict. Their selfish, destructive plans and actions are their only focus and purpose. Tocqueville reached this same conclusion – that these people are not after liberty but insidiously after equality at any cost to others. Tocqueville writes, “There exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom.” This is such an enlightened observation of human nature by Tocqueville that he has penetrated the fall of man even within the observation of the tremendous and unprecedented rise of the American civilization and society. He perceptively acknowledges further, “But liberty is not the chief and constant object of their desires; equality is their idol… but nothing can satisfy them except equality and rather than lose it they resolve to perish.”[4]  A recognition by Master Alexis of their paganism.

But Tocqueville holds his observation, opposite of the collectivists, in praise and awe. “America, then,” expounds Tocqueville, “exhibits her social state a most extraordinary phenomenon. Men are there seen on a greater equality in point of fortune and intellect, or, in other words, more equal in strength, than in any other country of the world, or in any age of which history has preserved the remembrance.”[5]

James Madison also warned in Federalist 10 of the destructive result of politicians pushing for equality.   Madison vehemently cautioned that, “Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would at the same time be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.”[6]  Madison’s foreshadowing of the dangerous issues with collectivist-statist is quite foreboding.

Economist Friedrich Hayek in 1945 lectured and wrote that Lord Action and Tocqueville “speak with one voice” on the subject of democracy and socialism. Hayek quotes Tocqueville stating, “Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.” Hayek continues by tying in Lord Action, quoting Action and stating, “The deepest cause which made the French revolution so disastrous to liberty was its theory of equality… the finest opportunity ever given to the world was thrown away, because the passion for equality made vain the hope for freedom.”[7]

[1] Alexis de Tocqueville, 2007 (originally published in 1835 and 1840), Democracy in America, Volumes 1 and 2, Unabridged, (Stilwell, KS: Publishing), p. 15.

[2] Alexis de Tocqueville, 2007 (originally published in 1835 and 1840), Democracy in America, Volumes 1 and 2, Unabridged, (Stilwell, KS: Publishing), p. 16.

[3] Alexis de Tocqueville, 2007 (originally published in 1835 and 1840), Democracy in America, Volumes 1 and 2, Unabridged, (Stilwell, KS: Publishing), p. 47.

[4] Alexis de Tocqueville, 2007 (originally published in 1835 and 1840), Democracy in America, Volumes 1 and 2, Unabridged, (Stilwell, KS: Publishing), p. 48.

[5] Alexis de Tocqueville, 2007 (originally published in 1835 and 1840), Democracy in America, Volumes 1 and 2, Unabridged, (Stilwell, KS: Publishing), p. 47.

[6] James Madison, November 22, 1787, Federalist Paper No. 10.   Taken from James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers: The Classic Original Edition, (SoHo Books), p. 26.

[7] Friedrich A. Hayek, 2009 (Originally published in 1948), Individualism and Economic Order, “Individualism: True and False,” 1945, (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute), p. 31.  See footnotes 30, 31 and 32 on page 31 for the sources of Tocqueville and Acton.



Originally published on Townhall Finance.


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