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).
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.