Can’t Have Everything

A savory morsel from Tocqueville:

Foreign policy demands scarcely any of those qualities which are peculiar to a democracy; on the contrary it calls for the perfect use of almost all those qualities in which a democracy is deficient. Democracy … can only with great difficulty regulate the details of an important undertaking, persevere in a fixed design, and work out its execution in spite of serious obstacles. It cannot combine its measures with secrecy or await their consequences with patience. These are qualities which are more characteristic of an individual or aristocracy.

– Alexis de Tocqueville; Democracy in America, 1835 ed.; Pt I, Ch. 5

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2 Comments

  1. Nick N says

    Uh, Malcolm, I hope you are not trying to imply that you think we would be better off with GWB as “Supreme Leader for Life”.

    Perhaps you could clarify a little for me. Thanks.

    Posted November 13, 2006 at 11:35 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Hi Nick,

    Heavens, no. My goodness, most certainly not. Readers of these pages ought to know how I feel about President Bush.

    And I’m all for democracy. I quote Churchill:

    We accept in the fullest sense of the word the settled and persistent will of the people. All this idea of a group of supermen and super-planners, such as we see before us, “playing the angel,” as the French call it, and making the masses of the people do what they think is good for them, without any check or correction, is a violation of democracy. Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time; but there is the broad feeling in our country that the people should rule, continuously rule, and that public opinion, expressed by all constitutional means, should shape, guide, and control the actions of Ministers who are their servants and not their masters.

    Amen. This is not to say, though, that other forms of government are not advantaged in various ways, and Tocqueville quite astutely calls this to our attention — a point the significance of which may become apparent in months to come.

    Posted November 13, 2006 at 11:57 am | Permalink