Welcome to another edition of Friday’s Philosophical Foray beyond Healthcare! Bruce Thornton examines the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville to illuminate “The wages of modernity’s technocratic hubris.”
“When it comes to America’s political order, no commentator today has yet come close to the brilliance of Alexis de Tocqueville, who was astonishingly prescient in pointing out the dangers inherent in the democracy he so admired.
“the ablest men . . . are rarely placed at the head of affairs.” With the citizens’ attention focused on their private affairs and necessity to make a living, “it is difficult for [them] to discern the best means of attaining the end,” which is “the welfare of the country.” Hence the voters’ “conclusions are hastily formed from a superficial inspection of the more prominent features of a question.” As a result, “mountebanks of all sorts are able to please the people, while their truest friends frequently fail to gain their confidence.”
This description obviously rings true today, in our age of the “low-information voter” and the multiple information platforms that promote the “superficial inspection” of sound-bite reporting that highlights only the politicized and emotionally charged “prominent features” of any issue.
“The people, surrounded by flatterers, find great difficulty in surmounting their inclinations; whenever they are required to undergo privation or any inconvenience, even to attain an end sanctioned by their own rational calculation, they almost always refuse at first to comply.”
And they are egged on by special interest groups like AARP that lobby politicians (“flatterers”), especially Democrats, who always champion expanding redistributionist programs rather than reforming them. Here, too, Tocqueville was prophetic:
“The power of the majority is so absolute and irresistible that one must give up one’s rights as a citizen and almost abjure one’s qualities as a man if one intends to stray from the track which it prescribes.”
That description fits Congress no matter which party is in control, and explains why nothing is being done to address this threat to our economic well-being.”