President Obama may be a well-read guy, but on Tuesday as he stood next to French president Francois Hollande he indicated to the world that he had not read Alexis de Tocqueville’s ‘Democracy in America’ in full. If he had, there would be no way he would have referred to the intellectual giant as “Alex.” While it may seem like nitpicking, let’s put it this way: it would be like talking about how much you respected “Ernie” Hemmingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’ with a straight face.

And so, it is with that in mind that I invite you to read just a small excerpt from de Tocqueville’s masterwork. In short, the man predicted to a the the kind of despotism Americans currently live under — even if millions of them don’t realize it.

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1835:

If despotism were to be established in present-day democracies, it would probably assume a different character; it would be more widespread and kinder; it would debase men without tormenting them. …

I wish to image under what new features despotism might appear in the world: I see an innumerable crowd of men, all for those petty, vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, living apart, is almost unaware of the destiny of all the rest. His children and personal friends are for him the whole of the human race; as for the remainder of his fellow citizens, he stands alongside them but does not see them; he touches them without feeling them; he exists only in himself and for himself; if he still retains his family circle, at any rate he may be said to have lost his country.

Above these men stands an immense and protective power which alone is responsible for looking after their enjoyments and watching over their destiny. It is absolute, meticulous, ordered, provident, and kindly disposed. It would be like a fatherly authority, if, father like, its aim were to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks only to keep them in perpetual childhood; it prefers its citizens to enjoy themselves provided they have only enjoyment in mind. It works readily for their happiness but it wishes to be the only provider and judge of it. It provides their security, anticipates and guarantees their needs, supplies their pleasures, directs their principal concerns, manages their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances. Why can it not remove from them entirely the bother of thinking and the troubles of life?

Thus, it reduces daily life the value and frequency of the exercise of free choice; it restricts the activity of free will within a narrower range and gradually removes autonomy itself from each citizen. Equality has prepared men for all this, inclining them to tolerate all these things and often even to see them as a blessing.

Thus, the ruling power, having taken each citizen one by one into its powerful grasp and having molded him to its own liking, spreads its arms over the whole of society, covering the surface of social life with a network of petty, complicated, detailed and uniform rules through which even the most original minds and the most energetic spirits cannot reach the light in order to rise above the crowd. It does not break men’s wills but it does soften, bend, and control them; rarely does it force men to act but it constantly opposes what actions they perform; it does not destroy the start of anything but it stands in the way; it does not tyrannize but it inhibits, represses, drains, snuffs out, dulls so much effort that finally it reduces each nation to nothing more than a flock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as shepherd.

I have always believed that this type of organized, gentle, and peaceful enslavement just described could link up more easily than imagined with some of the external forms of freedom that it would not be impossible for it to take hold in the very shadow of the sovereignty of the people.” — De Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. 1835.

Anyone who reads those words and appreciates the message would never forget the author who wrote them because it is the work of genius. If you have not purchased ‘Democracy in America’ I highly suggest doing so. It will cost you $13 brand new if you go for the Penguin Classics edition, which is not too shabby when you consider how much you’ll learn by the time you’re through.

Editor’s note to my regular readers: As you know, I haven’t been blogging as much lately because I’m attempting to finish a book. Without giving too much away, I will say this: the passage you just read by Alexis de Tocqueville will, for all intents and purposes, be included in the final draft. If you like science fiction and U.S. history, then I invite you to stay tuned.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

27 comments

    1. I’ll send you some more details off the grid. It’s coming along pretty well, but I almost wish I could just take a month off work to just write 14 hours a day and knock it out. Regardless, I think it will be basically tied up by May. That’s when I’m going full-court press to find a way to get it published.

    2. de Tocqueville’s words tie in nicely with the preceding post; the sheep casually go about their business as their leaders pass on a good opportunity.

      Looking forward to your book being published, I know how hard it must be to work on a project of that magnitude; but I bet it will be a rewarding and fruitful endeavor!

    3. Yes, to me it feels as though people are like, “You can control every aspect of my life as long as I can play my XBox and Angry Birds in peace.”

      The great thing about writing a book of this nature is that I’m learning a lot while I write it. No matter what happens, I win.

    4. During the Bush years, those same people would be screaming about tyranny and intrusion, but these days, “go ahead and control every aspect of my life. It’s cool” now that Obama is in office.

      I hope to finally complete mine by the end of the year or early next year. Maybe sooner if I really buckle down.

    5. I wonder how many people are aware of the fact that the NSA uses Angry Birds to track people? Today’s sheep probably don’t care as long as they get the high score.

    6. That’s great you have a timeline established, I look forward to your book also, Carl. I fear I’m ignorant on how a book gets published; but I hope both of you find a publisher so you can share your love/gift of writing with everyone.

    7. Publishing it can be difficult, but it’s much easier than it used to be. There are also a lot of people who simply self publish onto places like Amazon’s ebooks — and do rather well. There are a few authors my wife reads quite regularly. They put a book out for one or two bucks and if they’re good they can make a decent living.

    1. Thanks, Magnetic Eye! My hope is to have it done by May, but as my quest to get it published takes shape I’ll be posting updates to the blog. Just keep popping in here from time-to-time and you’ll be up to speed. It’s coming along nicely. I’m on track to hit my writing deadline and a buddy of mine said that in a worst case scenario she’d put me in contact with her agent. It’s not a matter of “if” it gets published, but “when”.

    2. Cool, looking forward to it.

      BTW, my family and I just enjoyed a 5 week vacation visiting friends across the USA, Absolutely loved it. We were in NYC for a week and we took the train down to Washington DC for a day.

      Definitely one of the highlights of the trip. What a beautiful city. We crammed a lot into one day, but still there was so much more that we didn’t get to see and do. Maybe next time. 🙂

      I purchased several books in DC. One from the Lincoln memorial (amazing place), a book titled “Lincoln On War” by Harold Holzer. Haven’t started reading it yet. Are you familiar with it?

    3. Ah yes, I remember you talking about that awhile back. I was surprised then at how much traveling you were doing in such a short amount of time. I hope the weather wasn’t too bad while you were here. It’s been a really cold winter. I think this year has been the coldest since I moved to D.C. maybe eight years ago…

      I’m not familiar with the book. I hope it’s a good one! Lincoln was definitely one of the great American presidents.

    4. Yeah we squeezed a lot in but it was worth it. Surprisingly the weather was actually good especially when we got up to the North Eastern part of the States.

      We kept missing the really bad stormy weather by a matter of days. So yes it was a little cold. My family and I had never experienced that sort of cold weather before, but we had clear blue sunny skies and a great experience.

      Then when we got up to Canada, Toronto and then Niagara Falls, man that was cold!!! 🙂 but still lots of fun.

    5. I had a blast at Niagara Falls when I was there in 2007, en route to New York City from Minnesota. It’s actually best viewed from the Canadian side; that’s where most of the postcard pictures come from. Back when I was there you weren’t required to have a passport to go into Canada.

    6. I agree it’s quite a spectacular view from the Canadian side. It snowed a fair bit when we were there and great to see the falls flowing and then massive ice sheets at the bottom.

      Spent some time in the park playing in the snow with the kids, trying to build a snowman and throwing snowballs at each other – a very rare treat for some Aussies 🙂

      We also visited a town called Niagra On The Lake and opposite the Nigara River is the New York town of Lewiston.

      Both towns have a great historic charm to them and both have refused to have any sort of commercial food franchises established there, which I thought was great.

    7. How often does it snow in Australia? I know the warmer climate was a big reason why a former neighbor of mine moved to Australia in the mid-to-late 1990s. That, and her husband was from Queensland originally and wanted to move back home.

    8. @ Carl,

      It snows mainly in the alpine regions of South Eastern Australia and of course in Tasmania.

      The alpine region of Australia stretches through the states of New South Wales and into Victoria.

      In NSW the Snowy Mountains region is home to good snowfalls from June through to September.

      In Victoria the ‘High Country’ region located a few hours drive from Melbourne has good snowfalls throughout winter. Tasmania also sees snow during winter.

      However there have been very rare ocassions of light snowfalls in mountain areas of South Australia, Western Australia and even in Queensland.

      I live in the beautiful city of Adelaide in South Australia. Pretty much a mediterannean sort of climate, hot dry summers and cold wet winters.

      We’ve just had a very hot start to 2014, the hottest since 2001 with 5 days in a row in January equal to and greater than 42C/107F.

      Heard on the radio yesterday we’ve had so far 13 days of over 40C/104F with some of the highest temps recorded at 46C/114.8F.

      Adelaide has some great beaches. With this sort of weather it’s better going to the beach either early in the morning or late afternoons into dusk or just simply stay at home running the air conditioner full blast. 🙂 I’m glad we missed most of the two heatwaves.

      So, lol, you can understand our thrill and excitement at experiencing an icy cold winter in the US and lots of snowfall in Canada. 🙂

      I’ve been to Queensland several times. Very tropical and humid the further north you go. Kind of like Florida I suppose.

    9. Thanks for the info, Magnetic Eye! At one time we actually planned on vacationing in Australia, but we’ve never had the money to do so. I wouldn’t mind going there someday. I’ve always wanted to see things like Ayers Rock and check out some of Victoria’s tourist railroads, which I had a VHS tape of when I was a little kid.

    1. I think a big reason why it’s taken me so long to write my book is because I can’t go for more than a day without my mom asking me when it’s going to be done. For some reason, constantly being asked that question puts me off writing. I don’t know why, but it does. I recall asking her a few years ago not to tell everyone she knows that I’m writing a book (so that I would not be bombarded with questions about it at every single family reunion), but she did anyway and that sort of angered me. I appreciate that she’s interested and wants to drum up interest, but I get the impression that she views me getting my book published as a sort of way for her to retire from work early or something.

      I only bring this up because she’s been hounding me about a lot lately and she magically expects it to be done right away. And then I am writing, she complains that I’m not out of the house enough and not getting enough interaction with people. It’s ridiculous.

    2. Haha. Well, it sounds like your mom doesn’t understand writers. If you’re going to finish that book it’s going to require a good amount of time in isolation. That is the life of the writer… There are plenty of successful pieces of art that took years and years and years for the creators to finish. You can’t rush it. I do believe that to some extent you have to make a commitment (just like anything else) and follow through, but your mom should realize that asking you about it isn’t helping.

      I’m not sure how much privacy you have in your home, but if your mom is bugging you I’d find a way to write either in the morning before she wakes up or later at night when everyone else goes to bed. I’m sorry that you have to deal with that.

    3. Now, I may have mentioned this before, but my answer, when she asks me, is that it’ll be done when it’s done and I’d appreciate it if she would not ask me about it every day. Her response is usually something along the lines of, “that’s not excuse. You should be done by now,” as though I’m on some imaginary timetable that she’s set for me.

    4. I’ve found that most people who think writing is “easy” have never actually had to put forth a decent product on a regular basis. It’s always funny when people come to a blog and act as if they could write even three quality posts a week for an entire year. I’ve been at this blog for over four years now. I’m hoping that it continues for years to come, but no matter what happens I’m pretty happy with the run I’ve had. Hube’s blog has been around for what? Ten years or close to it? That’s impressive.

    5. Yeah, I usually write when she’s at work and I have time to myself at home, or at night when both my folks are in bed as a result of her constantly asking me that question. Night time is when I usually write because it’s the only time I really have to myself. I love my mom, don’t get me wrong, but that question drives me nuts.

      And you’re right about how some people think it’s so damn easy to write something and put forth decent work on a regular basis. They think it’s an instant process, but they don’t understand all the thinking and planning that goes into it, nor do they understand how you might have to discard an idea because it wasn’t as good as you thought it was.

      I know you’ve been blogging since 2010 and Hube’s been at Colossus for nearly 10 years; he used to have a blog called “The Cube” that I might’ve visited back in 2004 or so. I started reading Colossus in 2010, discovering through a Newsbusters post Hube made about Captain America vs the Tea Party, which really opened my eyes to just how liberal the modern comics industry is. Then I found Avi’s blog (Avi started blogging in 2005, both at Four Color Media Monitor and his politics blog, Tel-Chai Nation), and then yours… It’s quite amazing that you’ve all been at for years.

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