Two from Tocqueville

"Among the new objects that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States, none struck my eye more vividly than the equality of conditions. I discovered without difficulty the enormous influence that this primary fact exerts on the course of society; it gives a certain direction to the public spirit, a certain turn to the laws, new maxims to those who govern, and particular habits to the governed. "
...Later on, in Volume Two, Part Two, Chapter 1, Tocqueville argues this equality of conditions produces a love of equality ("The first and most lively of the passions to which equality of conditions gives birth, I have no need to say, is the love of this same equality."); he argues this love of equality is greater than the love for freedom.

"Equality furnishes a multitude of little enjoyments daily to each man. The charms of equality are felt at all moments, and they are within the reach of all; the noblest hearts are not insensitive to them, and the most vulgar souls get their delights from them. The passion to which equality gives birth will therefore be both energetic and general.

Men cannot enjoy political freedom unless they purchase it with some sacrifices, and they never get possession of it except with many efforts. But the pleasures brought by equality offer themselves. Each little incident of private life seems to give birth to them, and to taste them, one only needs to be alive."
Do not ask what unique charm men in democratic ages find in living as equals, or the particular reasons that they can have for being so obstinately attached to equality rather than the other goods that society presents to them; equality forms the distinctive characterisitc of the period the live in; that alone is enough to explain why they prefer it to all the rest.
I find myself asking: do we (can we?) appreciate the vast and innumerable changes wrought by the free society? I think it is very difficult to do so. Society has changed immeasurably in the past 250 years. In many ways, for the better. And in many other ways for the worse.

But I think this general advance of equality is a deep reason conservatives(classically-minded liberals) do not favor policies such as socialized health care and other governmental administered welfare programs. Persons who desire these programs seem to ignore the tremendous progress we've made without these programs! Indeed, the great advances in the equality of conditions and conditions more generally have not been brought about by the action of a government - they have been brought about the by the actions of a free people under the rule of law.

No comments: