December 21, 2005


Tocqueville at 200: What would he think of democracy in today’s America? (Michael Novak, 12/21/05, National Review)

He hit the bulls-eye when he wrote that the truly distinctive genius of America was to solve the riddle that Europe and Asia had failed to solve, how to incorporate the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom into each other, "forming a marvelous combination":

Religion regards civil liberty as a noble exercise of man's faculties, the world of politics being a sphere intended by the Creator for the free play of intelligence. Religion, being free and powerful within its own sphere and content with the position reserved for it, realized that its sway is all the better established because it relies only on its own powers and rules men's hearts without external support.

Freedom sees religion as the companion of its struggles and triumphs, the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its rights. Religion is considered as the guardian of mores, and mores are regarded as the guarantee of the laws and pledge for the maintenance of freedom itself.

Tocqueville could observe around him in 2005 that the United States was, if anything, more religious than it had been in 1831. On television on autumn weekends, more Americans watch football than anything else; that is where the biggest audiences are. Those same weekends, more Americans attend church or synagogue than watch football, whether on TV or at all the stadia all around the nation put together.

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.

What would strike all of the great conservative thinkers most it the improbable fact that despite the enduring health of democracy in America the pendulum is swinging back towards society and away from the state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 21, 2005 3:12 PM

So many bad things are happening in this once glorious nation called America. But the wind of fortune is blowing elsewhere. Now both China and India are moving ahead fast. Wake up. I recommend a new book for every fellow American: China's Global Reach: markets, multinationals, and globalization by a Chinese commentator George Zhibin Gu. This book is a must read if Americans wish to move ahead, once again.

Posted by: Jim at December 22, 2005 1:15 AM

New here?

Posted by: Timothy at December 22, 2005 10:50 AM

Timothy, who wouldn't trust the economic figures of an oppressive communist dictatorship which sends officials who don't report the right numbers off to a gulag? If you can't trust people like that, who can you trust?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at December 22, 2005 5:40 PM