Alexis de Tocqueville – Democracy in America thoughts, Part 2

Town liberty therefore escapes human effort so to speak. Consequently it is rarely created; in a sense it arises by itself. It develops almost in secret within a semi-barbaric society. The continuous action of laws and of mores, circumstances, and above all time succeed in its consolidation. You can say that, of all the nations of the European continent, not a single one knows town liberty.

The strength of free peoples resides in the town, however. Town institutions are to liberty what primary schools are to knowledge; they put it within the grasp of the people; they give them a taste of its peaceful practice and accustom them to its use. Without town institutions, a nation can pretend to have a free government, but it does not possess the spirit of liberty. Temporary passions, momentary interests, the chance of circumstances can give it the external forms of independence; but despotism, driven back into the interior of the social body, reappears sooner or later at the surface.ref

The town system. The most intimate form of institutional government because the people are still physically close to its center, the center being where policy is made. Thus liberty accelerates because the power can literally be exorcised by the presence of individuals who exorcise that control by being physically close. It is from the many autonomous towns spread about within early America, from East to West and North to South. With their particular mores and social milieu, interconnect through trade that celebrates an overarching common character.

The trade, or economic activity, between the towns form common national centers of power and influence ultimately transform into the United States. A natural line emerges during the 1800′s as town liberty spawns across America. Towns seem to fade away and now whole divisions based on North and South creep. Centralization and thus systems or institutions which are antithetical to town liberty advanced in the South, because people chose not to accept free government for all.

You can see de Tocqueville warning future America of a type of despotism that fades back and lurks, formulating in the background of the “social body” and expressing itself at the surface differently then before. This is of course the intellectual strain of community based government that was communism which expressed socialism in its purest form as per Engels and Marx. Then evolved Fabian socialism and of courses since the 1900′s and Woodrow Wilson, FDR, etc we are well aware of Progressive socialism.


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