Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tocqueville at 200 

Here's a great piece on what Alexis de Tocqueville (author of Democracy in America) might think today about the accuracy of his predictions made 170 years ago and the state of America, Europe, and the world today. Read the whole thing, the passages on the horrible potential for people's want for equality leading to a new type of despotism in which no talented man can rise to greatness is troubling given certain trends in the expansion of government today. Also, I find the conclusion concerning religion especially thought provoking:
What does their religion — almost entirely Jewish and Christian — add to American civic and political life? you might ask. It grounds Americans' sense of personal dignity in the conviction that each woman and each man is made in the image of the Creator, and is loved by that Creator. It also grounds their fundamental right to freedom of conscience in the knowledge that God made human minds free, and chose to be approached by them based upon the evidence of their own minds, and through their own free choice, not through coercion. For such is the nature of the Jewish and Christian God.

These beliefs have always given Americans confidence in the idea that liberty is universal, intended by the Creator for all humans. Their philosophy of natural rights is backed up by their faith in the God Who addresses them in their liberty. In dark and difficult times, this faith is of quiet but irreplaceable assistance. It gives to Americans a sense that the world has a purpose and a direction.

And also a reliable measure for what is better and worse, progress and decline.

All in all, Tocqueville has a right to take pleasure in getting a number of very important matters right — including a new form of despotism to worry about. Moreover, there are religions and civilizations whose God seems not be committed to liberty and the personal dignity of each. But is that only an appearance? Is it in fact true?

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