Tennessee Gentleman, portrait of Andrew Jackson, c. 1831, from the collection of The Hermitage (from here)

Here we have Part 2 in “The Grand Conspiracy”. See THE GRAND CONSPIRACY? — PART 1 for Part 1. What is Part 2 about?

Did The People Ever Run America?

As I observed in TLP Living: 11/19/18, when I advocate for limited government my opponents accuse me of being against government or cynicism. Here is where I will deal with that criticism.

About ten years ago I wrote quite a few posts highlighting passages I had quoted from Democracy in America by Alexis De Tocqueville. Who was Tocqueville? He was a French aristocrat who visited America in the 1830’s. Fascinated by what he saw, he spent a couple of years riding around our country on horseback. Then he returned to Europe and wrote about what he had seen and learned.

Who was president America when Tocqueville studied our nation? Andrew Jackson. Undoubtedly, Jackson made an impression on Tocqueville. I suspect Jackson’s presidency is one reason why Tocqueville formed the impression that America was then ruled by an aristocracy of lawyers (see An Aristocracy of Lawyers: Why Lawyers Rule).

Have things changed over the last two hundred years? Who leads America now? Well, let’s consider another almost two century old observation from Democracy in America (first posted here).

Remains Of The Aristocratic Party In The United States

Secret opposition of wealthy individuals to democracy—Their retirement—Their taste for exclusive pleasures and for luxury at home—Their simplicity abroad—Their affected condescension towards the people.

It sometimes happens in a people amongst which various opinions prevail that the balance of the several parties is lost, and one of them obtains an irresistible preponderance, overpowers all obstacles, harasses its opponents, and appropriates all the resources of society to its own purposes. The vanquished citizens despair of success and they conceal their dissatisfaction in silence and in general apathy. The nation seems to be governed by a single principle, and the prevailing party assumes the credit of having restored peace and unanimity to the country. But this apparent unanimity is merely a cloak to alarming dissensions and perpetual opposition.

This is precisely what occurred in America; when the democratic party got the upper hand, it took exclusive possession of the conduct of affairs, and from that time the laws and the customs of society have been adapted to its caprices. At the present day the more affluent classes of society are so entirely removed from the direction of political affairs in the United States that wealth, far from conferring a right to the exercise of power, is rather an obstacle than a means of attaining to it. The wealthy members of the community abandon the lists, through unwillingness to contend, and frequently to contend in vain, against the poorest classes of their fellow citizens. They concentrate all their enjoyments in the privacy of their homes, where they occupy a rank which cannot be assumed in public; and they constitute a private society in the State, which has its own tastes and its own pleasures. They submit to this state of things as an irremediable evil, but they are careful not to show that they are galled by its continuance; it is even not uncommon to hear them laud the delights of a republican government, and the advantages of democratic institutions when they are in public. Next to hating their enemies, men are most inclined to flatter them.

Mark, for instance, that opulent citizen, who is as anxious as a Jew of the Middle Ages to conceal his wealth. His dress is plain, his demeanor unassuming; but the interior of his dwelling glitters with luxury, and none but a few chosen guests whom he haughtily styles his equals are allowed to penetrate into this sanctuary. No European noble is more exclusive in his pleasures, or more jealous of the smallest advantages which his privileged station confers upon him. But the very same individual crosses the city to reach a dark counting-house in the centre of traffic, where every one may accost him who pleases. If he meets his cobbler upon the way, they stop and converse; the two citizens discuss the affairs of the State in which they have an equal interest, and they shake hands before they part.

But beneath this artificial enthusiasm, and these obsequious attentions to the preponderating power, it is easy to perceive that the wealthy members of the community entertain a hearty distaste to the democratic institutions of their country. The populace is at once the object of their scorn and of their fears. If the maladministration of the democracy ever brings about a revolutionary crisis, and if monarchical institutions ever become practicable in the United States, the truth of what I advance will become obvious.

The two chief weapons which parties use in order to ensure success are the public press and the formation of associations. (from here)

So were Tocqueville’s observations correct? Has the truth of what he advanced become obvious? Do the wealthy now have great political power, an open distaste for the unwashed masses? Is there a grand conspiracy to destroy America? Or am I just cynical, totally against government, and spreading outrageous conspiracy theories?

Well, although it seems we do have people conspiring together, I am not a conspiracy theorist. I just think we the people are behaving foolishly, that precious few of us have any idea of the great harm we are doing to our country. When Tocqueville visited America, the Federal Government largely existed for only one purpose, to protect our rights, not to give us things. That made for a Federal Government far less complex to manage. Moreover, most of the activities of government were conducted at the local level. Even state governments, though at that time they had relatively more power, did not intrude nearly as much into the life of ordinary citizens as they do today.

The small size of government made government easier to manage and thus more subject to the ordinary citizen. As a result, the wealthy then exercised far less control. In fact, the “aristocrats” were just imperfect people who largely understood and respected the law.

Now what do we have? We have a lot of people selling their votes to politicians who have been “bought” by wealthy donors. We have a form of crony capitalism that is slowly transitioning to Socialism. If we want to run our own lives, we have to stop selling our votes for the “free” things politicians offer us. If that is true, is it cynical or against government to make the observation? Of course not. What is cynical is the idea we need politicians to tell us how to run every last detail of our lives. We should not confuse government with God. When we need guidance — when we are need — we should turn first to our Lord, not a government bureaucrat. Our Lord has a right to our love; we are only obligated to give government a portion from our wallets.


18 thoughts on “THE GRAND CONSPIRACY? — PART 2

  1. Great discernment of the present sad state of political power in the USA.

    Observers of the history of the world might agree that over time, it has always been this way ever since the beginning of time.

    Nothing new under the sun, in my opinion,

    Regards and good will blogging.

  2. As a homeschooling father, I’ve been teaching my teenage daughter about American government this fall. We just discussed political campaigns. As we discussed the difference between bribery and legitimate campaign donations, I made sure that she understood that generally people contribute to a campaign, not to change the candidate’s mind in the donor’s favor, but because the candidate has already taken a position which meets the donor’s approval. Large donations don’t buy votes; they support policies. J.

    1. @Salvageable

      Good for you and your daughter. Homeschooling is lots of work, but worth the effort.

      I don’t disagree with what you are teaching your daughter. One of the problems with politics is that it cost money to run for office. Yet the average citizen has little interest in contributing to a candidate’s campaign. Generally, that is something only wealthy people do. That leaves wealthy people in control of who runs and wins.

      Who do wealthy people contribute their money to? Too often it seems to be business decision. That results in politicians taking positions which meets the approval of potential donors. Therefore, while we may find it difficult to establish a quid pro quo, it is there.

      So what can we do? Average citizens need to start helping the candidates who promote the interests of the country, not just the interest of certain businesses and labor unions. If we wait for someone else to fix the problem, we probably won’t like their solution.

      1. That’s what I’d like to see: average people becoming more involved in politics. If they don’t have money to donate, they can donate time to the campaigns they support. If they cannot find campaigns to support, they should run themselves. J.

  3. A curious post, Tom! Chuckling here, but sometimes I feel as I live in a cartoon, an extreme example of what Tocqueville was speaking of. Also, it just happens to be one of the most liberal (and secular places) in the country. I try very hard not to descend into this kind of class warfare thing, but yes the words ring true about the, “secret opposition of wealthy individuals to democracy.”

    True too is, “the populace is at once the object of their scorn and of their fears.” And so in more modern times, accusations of being “unwoke, racist, and deplorable” was born, was it not? I mean, the outright contempt for the unwashed masses, the working classes, the Trump supporters, is a tangible thing. And what is “drain the swamp,” but a call to get rid of all the corruption, to clean house and build something that looks more like justice,like democracy?

    1. @IB

      What is the Liberal Democrat Party? Supposedly, it is a coalition various, often patently absurd (LGBTQ, the disabled, illegal immigrants, blacks, the old, children, labor unions, and so forth) identity groups. What is an an identity group? On the surface an identity group is a bunch of intolerant people united in forcing everyone else to accept their truth, even raiding the public treasury to suit further their agenda. Underneath the surface nothing has changed. The Liberal Democrat party is in fact very traditional. Greedy rich have just combined with covetous poor people (That is, the rich have offered to buy off the gullible with tax payer dollars.) to enslave those in the middle, and the public schools and news media have made this nonsense appear both righteous and fashionable.

  4. Very good post, this gave me a lot to think about. I wonder if the first major transgression by the American government against the American people arose when Lincoln was assassinated.

    I could be mistaken, but I believe it was after that, when the “secret service” was established. For the first time, every president following Lincoln would be completely separated from the general voting public. Thereby, no longer would any U.S. president answer directly to the American people.

    Just a thought, I could be totally wrong.

    1. @bottomlesscoffee007

      Have to think about that one, but I don’t think there is anyway to avoid protecting our president.

      I also think our government is an expression of our will. What our government does usually is not exactly what we want it to do, but that is because we too often try to make our government do something we should not be trying to make it do. Sort of like using a big sledge hammer to hang pictures. That is so wrong it is immoral, but it doesn’t stop people.

      1. That is a solid point. The government is a mirror rather than a window.

        I’m not arguing to not protect the president. I’m just wondering about the depth of the protection. For that matter the level of separation from our own state representatives.

        1. @bottomlesscoffee007

          Currently, protection of the president is driven by the perceived threat. That is increasing. One reason for that is elected officials and people in the news media who are encouraging hatred. They are advocating intimidation of and violence against their opponents. In the past those people would have almost immediately been ostracized if not jailed. Nobody would have anything to do them.

          1. Possibly, at the same time, some may see it as a security blanket. A way to remain separated from the polices and legislation and laws that are on the books and what is being proposed. I don’t believe that it is totally one sided.

            Just as a sitting president is practically immune from being sued in civil court or how a president cannot be called upon to testify in court proceedings.

            @ Citizen Tom, I understand the constant threat all U.S. Presidents are under, whether current president and presidents past. At the same time, this threat is used as an excuse to separate themselves from their constituents.

            With all of the money spent on their protection. It still happens, whether directly or indirectly. With all of the ricin threats and then there were the “pipe bombs” earlier this year. Perhaps if elected representatives trusted us like how they ask us to trust them, things might be a little more balanced.

            I realize what I am saying might not be able to be applied. It is however definitely considerable. Just like when Gen. Petraus would loose his body armor when he would go around the various market places in Iraq. He was attempting to show that he trusted the Iraqis. He nor his security team was able to lock down an area before he ventured out, but he still did it.

            You gotta give people the benefit of the doubt if you expect them to give you a chance. (I am not specifically addressing you @ Citizen Tom) Just Saying.

          2. @bottomlesscoffee007

            In the modern era, I am afraid the threat to our president is quite serious. Trump’s opponents are waging information warfare, effectively a hate campaign against him. There are over 300 million people in this country. Even a small percentage of people willing to kill our president adds up to thousands. Since our borders are porous we also have to consider foreign threats. Therefore, Trump cannot mix with the public without taking significant precautions. As it is, I think Trump does his best to make himself available to the people.

          3. @Citizen Tom,

            Yeah, the opinion section has for some reason become the “news”. I am quite aware of how the media is a business, therefore they are more concerned with ratings and clicks rather than actual news.

            In tandem, there are plenty of people that would buy into that kind of nonsense. I will admit that from where I am standing, the left is far more culpable and has also carried out practically every act of violence on trump. In the same token though, I believe it is quite either convenient or lazy to only look to the left. The more we pay attention to them, the easier and easier it becomes for the right to commit more transgressions against the same people who support them.

            Two wings, same bird.

          4. @bottomlesscoffee007

            Hard to figure out the news media, but most of the big outfits seem to as the propaganda arms of crony capitalists. If you are a rich guy who wants to get his political cronies elected, the easiest thing to is buy a big news outfit and hire reporters with the correct point of view.

            Two wings, same bird.

            Yes. That’s true. See

            To the extent it makes any difference, we have far more of the left wing totalitarian types in this country than we have the right wing variety. However, that just makes the point. The right wing KKK, when it served their purposes, was an arm of the Democratic Party. Now Antifa, a left wing group of terrorist bullies, serves their purpose. In fact, the white supremacists now just provides a convenient bogeyman.

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