Author Topic: Democracy in America  (Read 2784 times)

Offline Mountainshield

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1934
  • Gender: Male
  • Norwegian Coffeeman
Democracy in America
« on: May 20, 2013, 05:40:46 AM »
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0061127922/ref=pe_309540_26725410_item

Anyone read this book?

I just ordered it, I can't believe this is not standard material in addition to Rousseau, John Stuart mill and David Hume etc.

Offline JTA

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 181
  • n/a
Re: Democracy in America
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2013, 04:40:52 PM »
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0061127922/ref=pe_309540_26725410_item

Anyone read this book?

I just ordered it, I can't believe this is not standard material in addition to Rousseau, John Stuart mill and David Hume etc.

I read this book a few months ago. I'm assuming you've probably already started reading it. What are your thoughts thus far? The version I purchased also contained two essays about the frontier that I thoroughly enjoyed: Two Weeks in the Wilderness, and Excursions to Lake Oneida.

Offline Mountainshield

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1934
  • Gender: Male
  • Norwegian Coffeeman
Re: Democracy in America
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2013, 07:21:56 AM »
Ah no I haven't started reading it yet but it is waiting for me back home so I'm looking forward to it.
Nice to hear that you enjoyed it, please share your thoughts on it when you can and I will reply after reading it.

Offline JTA

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 181
  • n/a
Re: Democracy in America
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2013, 03:05:19 PM »
Ah no I haven't started reading it yet but it is waiting for me back home so I'm looking forward to it.
Nice to hear that you enjoyed it, please share your thoughts on it when you can and I will reply after reading it.

Alright man forgive me, I'm not the best writer in the world and I'm complete garbage at expressing ideas and debating. This may be long, but here goes:

As you're probably already aware, Democracy in America was written by a Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville who was sent to the US in the early nineteenth century to study American society. I'm thoroughly interested in early American history, so I thought this was be a good book to read to gain insights into what constitutes the "kernel" of what an American "is", and what it means "to be" an American, if that makes sense. A lot of people nowadays like to spout of various things about what characteristics they believe are uniquely "American" and how that makes us stand out from the crowd and what not, so I thought this would be a good read to investigate these notions further in order to gain insight myself into what America "is". I found this book to be an especially interesting choice because it was written by an outsider surveying American society from an objective viewpoint.

I'm going to try to keep this short. Here's some key points de Tocqueville brought up that I found interesting. I'll add some more commentary on why I found some of them interesting when I have some more time:
  • Large overbearing governments instills civic apathy, diminished civic pride. This doesn't necessarily reauire a weak central government. We can have a strong central government, necessary for protecting us against foreign foes, while having limited central bureaucracy bogging down.
  • Political parties are defective because they are committed to principles rather than consequences.
  • The best bulwark for the decline of religion is a distinct separation of church and state. If religion is tied to closely to the state, as the state declines so will religion since it will be seen as another mere temporal entity, like the state. Priests should stay aloof from politics.
  • Religion inspires man to place objectives beyond this world, imposing obligations on him that require him to temper his base instincts and helps teach man to conduct himself with the future in mind.
  • Descartes is the most widely applied philosopher in America.
  • Overwhelming trust in common opinions has the danger of devolving into religious like devotion to popular opinion.
  • Because men have less leisure time in America and therefore less time to delve into in depth discussions of ideas, general ideas tend to fill the void and become popular
  • Man must invent new principles and forget the old at times, lest America become like China - stuck in stasis, no progression as everyone relies on old bygone formulas without truly understanding them. Imitation of method. This is one of the dangers of obsession with the practical whilst ignoring the theoretical.
  • One of the dangers of individualism is the abandonment of community in favor of egotism. Individuals then become less likely to form free associations with one another, less likely to get things done and more likely they are to allow the government to become overbearing and disregard others in their community.
  • It may happen that the class which runs industry may come to resemble an aristocracy, especially as classes become less fluid. A business aristocracy would be most harsh ever, but also most restrained and least dangerous.


Offline JTA

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 181
  • n/a
Re: Democracy in America
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2013, 05:00:01 PM »
Overwhelming trust in common opinions has the danger of devolving into religious like devotion to popular opinion.

...

Man must invent new principles and forget the old at times, lest America become like China - stuck in stasis, no progression as everyone relies on old bygone formulas without truly understanding them. Imitation of method. This is one of the dangers of obsession with the practical whilst ignoring the theoretical.


Disclaimer/Introduction: I typically avoid political discussions online because no one is going to budge in their opinion anyway, and those types of discussions almost always end with some sort of name-calling. In real life this wouldn't happen. Most people tend to get along quite well in real life despite differing political/religious beliefs (I always get along with others, anyway). I'm going to break my rule perhaps this once because I'm passionate about the exchange of ideas and seeing things from a different angle, which can only be gained by having others explain their perspectives.

As for the above point: I suppose I can sort of see this now. It seems like the overwhelming presence of the press and other mass media outlets in our daily lives and the compacting of complex ideas into short and sweet mainstream news "meme" buzzwords/slogans is a major detriment to the exchange of ideas and a contributor to the bastardization of America.

I'm just going to throw around some things I've thought about from time to time. It may not make much sense, but let me try to explain the best that I can anyway:

In most philosophical works, the author will typically spend an inordinate amount of time meticulously explaining his or her ideas down to the most minute of details. These thinkers make possible the spawning of new ideas that eventually blossom into actuality. Rene Descartes no doubt had a huge impact on the birth of modern philosophy and perhaps the course of Western civilization, likewise John Locke the development of the US. Perhaps the theoretical musings of philosophers and others form the basis of many ideas we take as a given today. These theoretical foundations form the basis of which much of actuality springs forth.

When I hear the media speak of "democracy", "government", "liberty" I immediately have a set of specific concepts come to mind and I know exactly what they're talking about. When I personally hear "government", I think of the fools we have in Washington. I don't think of the non-specific concept "government", I think of a concrete entity, usually one that the mass media drills into my head. I may eventually allow such and such concrete example overtake my theoretical conception of "government", get bogged down in specifics, and have my thought ossified into dead mass, with no chance of alteration leaving me and others stuck beating a dead horse.

Example: There are only "liberals" and "conservatives", no other options. Conservatives are all gun toting racist hillbillies, and liberals are all sappy hippy wusses with rose colored glasses. Conseratives believe in "A", "B", and "C", while Liberals "X", "Y", and "Z". I don't care what either believes. I don't care about what they have to say, because I know conservatives/liberals are such and such and I don't like that. Because I associate negatively with conservatives/liberals, I already know beforehand I won't agree with concept "A" or "X", and if I hear someone call themselves a liberal or conservative I've already made up my mind, no need for discussion.

Example: John Locke was a liberal, so was Thomas Jefferson. They must have been pot smoking hippie because thats what liberals do. Case closed. I don't care what they thought because they are considered "liberals".

Example: Conservatives typically agree with limited government, therefore limited government must be bad because whatever conservatives think must be bad.

What if I remove individual concepts from the aegis of their respective "ideologies" and take a microscope to them and disect them to find their source? Then try to determine the premises they are built upon to figure out whether or not they stand on their own right?

I guess really what I'm trying to say is I sort of agree with de Tocqueville on the above point. I think we become too entrenched in concretes at times and forget who we "are" and what the entity "America" is. I feel like as a country our "well has run dry" so to speak, or that we've simply decided to ignore it altogethor and have instead decided it's a convenient place dump our garbage.

This is why I found de Tocqueville's book to be refreshing. It's not a rehash of disfigured ideas ripped from the well spring of our theoretical foundation and forced into an ill fitting partisan mold, but like other documents such as the federalist papers or the consitution, it's a primary source of what "America" is (or was?) free from any modern day media molestation.

I'm going to stop now because this is post is starting to not make any sense even to me.  :smile:

Offline Solar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 67362
  • Gender: Male
Re: Democracy in America
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2013, 08:19:21 PM »
Overwhelming trust in common opinions has the danger of devolving into religious like devotion to popular opinion.

...

Man must invent new principles and forget the old at times, lest America become like China - stuck in stasis, no progression as everyone relies on old bygone formulas without truly understanding them. Imitation of method. This is one of the dangers of obsession with the practical whilst ignoring the theoretical.

Can you clarify that statement?
#WWG1WGA

Offline Conservativeartist42

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 27
Re: Democracy in America
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2013, 12:53:39 AM »
I've read it and quoted it in my own project. They do require it in some colleges as standard reading but it's HEAVILY abridged with all of the good stuff taken out. Have to graduate them kids as little socialists apologetic of America after all...

Offline Solar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 67362
  • Gender: Male
Re: Democracy in America
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2013, 06:51:41 AM »
Overwhelming trust in common opinions has the danger of devolving into religious like devotion to popular opinion.

...

Man must invent new principles and forget the old at times, lest America become like China - stuck in stasis, no progression as everyone relies on old bygone formulas without truly understanding them. Imitation of method. This is one of the dangers of obsession with the practical whilst ignoring the theoretical.



The reason I ask for clarification, is because it sounds like the rhetoric from the left claiming the Constitution to be a living document, one written to be changed.
#WWG1WGA

Offline Conservativeartist42

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 27
Re: Democracy in America
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2013, 08:11:33 AM »
It depends on if it's a revised copy or not. I have learned that just because a book claims it's "unabridged" doesn't mean it contains everything.   de Tocqueville  was a Frenchman who toured the US to find out why our Revolution succeeded when France's had failed. Among other things, he concluded it was because we had religious morality here when the french embraced secularism. I have seen copies of this work where all references to religious morality have been removed.

Offline quiller

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17781
  • Gender: Male
  • Reinstate dueling for Congress
Re: Democracy in America
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2013, 08:07:25 PM »
The reason I ask for clarification, is because it sounds like the rhetoric from the left claiming the Constitution to be a living document, one written to be changed.

Rhetoric? The process for amendments is outlined in the original document itself. The trick of course is, it's nearly impossible to actually pull off. Thankfully!!!!  At least society has the common sense to not try it too often (although I can see the Acapulco Gold Amendment bringing the end to the war on marijuana).

 

Powered by EzPortal