Presentation on theme: "Political Thinking POL 161 D&B 38-52. Alexis de Tocqueville - Democracy in America Tocqueville was a French aristocrat that traveled the US in the early."— Presentation transcript:
Alexis de Tocqueville - Democracy in America Tocqueville was a French aristocrat that traveled the US in the early 1830’s When he returned to France he wrote about his experiences in a 2 volume work titled Democracy in America Saw democracy as an irresistible force, and felt that it was basically a good thing He also warned that democracy promotes mediocrity It promotes mediocrity because it celebrates equality When everyone is equal there will be pressures to conform Called this pressure to conform “the tyranny of the majority”
Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America Common people are easily swayed by strong leaders who mislead the masses leading to tyranny or despotism An aristocracy would help prevent this because a class of people with elevated property and privileges will protect against this Once democracy and equality overcome the aristocracy there is nothing to stop despotism from destroying liberty
Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America Tocqueville did see a positive in democracy One that joined republicanism to the democratic ideal He felt civic virtue could be promoted through participation When neighbors begin to work together to solve problems they get attached to their community This then allows the individuals to think about community before themselves This massive participation could lead to a deep rooted devotion to the common good Tocqueville specifically loved New England Town Hall meetings and shared responsibility of jury duty
Democratic Participation and Political Education- J.S. Mill In 19 th century England, the discussion favoring democracy centered on two concerns Self-protection Self-development The “philosophical radicals” know as the Utilitarian's, the duty of the government is “to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number” They figured the best way to do this was through a representative democracy This will have elected men that will look out for citizens best interests
Democratic Participation and Political Education- J.S. Mill Mill feels that political participation is valuable because it allows for self- development Like Tocqueville, Mill feels democracy strengthens the virtue of common people For Mill it is political participation not merely voting for representatives that will educate and improve people This will teach them discipline, sharpen their intelligence, and shape their morality
Democratic Participation and Political Education- J.S. Mill Pg. 52 (Still more salutatory…He is made to feel himself one of the public, and whatever is for their benefit to be for his benefit.) This quote shows the gradual extension of the democratic franchise in the last 150 years. The right to vote for all males was not accomplished until 1885 in Britain The US did not see the vote extend to all citizens until the passing of the 19 th amendment Switzerland, the world’s oldest democracy did not grant women the right to vote until 1971
Democratic Participation and Political Education- J.S. Mill As late as the 1960’s blacks in the US saw huge obstacles to voting such as poll taxes and literacy tests Are we over this obstacle, have we achieved full democratic participation? All and all almost everyone in the so –called Western democracies accepts democracy as the best from of government But those countries that are not democratic claim it is the worst kind of evil Do you agree?
The Democratic Ideal Review Democracy is now so popular that most ideologies claim to favor it However they all interpret the word differently and tend to compete with others Democracy is not a single thing, as our brief history makes painstakingly clear Democracy is a lot like “true love”, most all desire it, and it is definitely defined differently by each person We all agree that democracy is “rule by the people” but exactly what that means is vague Who are people? Common people? Land Owners? Adult Males? Everyone? Felons?
The Democratic Ideal Review How are they to rule? Direct? Indirect? If others vote for you do you cease to govern yourself? Should we follow majority rule? How then do you protect minority rights when they offend the majority? If we limit majority rule, are we retreating from democracy? Term limits- are these good? Do they actually help make the government responsive to the people? Do they make America less democratic because we are not allowed to vote for those representatives we like, time and again?
The Democratic Ideal Review Sick of questions yet? (wow, that was a question too!) The obvious point is that we even in this class, much like our government have multiple answers to these questions Do all these questions prove how unstable democracy is? This is generally the reason that the United States is a republic Which one do you think cares more power with the American people? This is why we have created our hybrid of Democratic Republicanism
The Democratic Ideal Review Democracy does remain attractive because of its connection to freedom and equality Does it imply that everyone will be free and equal to each other?