Tag Archives: French Revolution


In our first post exploring the dichotomy between Obama’s poor record and strong support we explained that with true believers his record doesn’t count.  He’s a Democrat and he is black, and that is good enough.  But there is another and more disturbing reason for the apparent dichotomy.  We are approaching Tocqueville time in America.

The answer may lie in the very nature of democracy itself.  If that’s the case, we can’t say we weren’t warned.  Aristotle said democracy would lead to great corruption.  Plato warned that the demos (the masses) lacked sufficient understanding to differentiate the charmers from the honest and capable candidates and they would choose the charmers.  Given the nature of man and the fact that in any society the masses will outnumber the elites, both philosophers held that democracy would lead to the demos voting largesse unto themselves from the nation’s accumulated wealth to the ultimate detriment of the entire society.

Aristotle and Plato did not have the benefit of history to confirm their opinions because democracy was a new concept in their day.  But Alexis de Tocqueville, a noted French writer and historian who came more than 2,000 years later did look back on the rise and fall of great empires some of which were limited democracies.

Tocqueville was born to French aristocracy and lived during the period of the French Revolution.  He was a keen observer of the American Experiment that combined free markets, rights to private property and a level of democracy theretofore unknown.  The young Frenchman noted at the time that the “experiment” was a great success.  However, as our long running sidebar suggests, he also warned that over time the public will vote themselves more and more benefits until the government’s treasury is depleted and the system collapses in fiscal insolvency.  Usually to be followed by some form of despotic governance.

Obama is a charmer, Romney is not.  Obama promises ever greater largesse to the people, Romney does not.  The combination of true believers and largesse voters forms a base of unwavering support.  The stable of true believers is relatively static; but the percentage of largesse voters grows over time.  The time Tocqueville gave for the American democracy to run its course was about 200 years; we are well beyond that.  The 2012 election will answer the question, have we reached Tocqueville time in America ?



It was in this chamber that a deviation of tradition launched the French Revolution.  The French majority demanded an equal head for head vote in the affairs of government and it was denied.

Locke, Rousseau and Burke were three influential thinkers of that general era when the Western world was in transition from totalitarian rule by monarchs to some other form of government.

John Locke was a British philosopher of the 17th century.  His writings greatly influenced the content of our Declaration of Independence.

Jean Jacques Rousseau was an 18th century philosopher who would fall into Thomas Sowell’s unconstrained vision category.

Edmund Burke was a British statesman and political philosopher of the late 18th century.

That’s who they were; now what did they believe and why does it matter?  I will let Jonah Goldberg answer that.  He writes:

“Readers of this blog, the book or, in particular people who’ve heard me speak about the book at length, know that I think political philosophy, or more accurately, political visions can be boiled down to Locke versus Rousseau. The Lockean vision holds that man is the captain of his soul, that his rights come from God, the individual is sovereign, that the government exists because men of free will cede certain authorities to it in order to best protect  their lives and property.

The Rousseauian vision holds that the collective comes before the individual, our rights come from the group not from God, that the tribe is the source of all morality, and the general will is the ultimate religious construct and so therefore the needs — and aims — of the group come before those of the individual.

Fascism, like Communism, Socialism, Progressivism and all the other collectivist isms are all based on the Rousseauian vision of the group, the tribe, the class taking precedence over the individual.

I’ve also been writing for years that “transnational progressives” are trying to take the Progressive project to the world stage. This was the dream of HG Wells –originator of the phrase Liberal Fascism — who often proclaimed that FDR was the living embodiment of the “world brain.” It’s the aspiration of Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village, in which the logic of everything inside the village, nothing outside the village is eventually extended, in Clinton’s telling,  to the global village.

Bill Clinton’s modestly named “Global Clinton Initiative” is sold with the following sentiment from Bill Clinton, which appeared on the GCI’s website for years. “In my life now,” Clinton declares, “I am obsessed with only two things:  I don’t want anybody to die before their time, and I don’t want to see good people spend their energies without making a difference.”  (Historians may add that there was a third obsession — with his wife’s campaign for president).

Forget the gnostic hubris in the idea that Clinton could be part of anything that could determine when the right time to die for each of billions of humans might be, the idea that everyone — and I mean everyone — should be “making a difference” as defined by a handful of global priests is really a stunning, and to my mind frightening, ambition. Leave no child behind has escaped the paddock and is now galloping across the globe.

I bring all of this up because I found a wonderful quote from John Fonte’s essay in the new Claremont Review of Books. Fonte, the author of the phrase “transnational progressives,” reviews books by Strobe Talbott and Marc Plattner. In the Talbott book, it’s recounted how the top brass of the early Clinton administration proposed dealing with the end of the Cold War. Bill was pondering the “direction of history” (in what appears to be a basically Hegelian  way) when Al Gore chimed in. Gore explained:

Rousseau said the body politic is a moral being possessed of a will. He was thinking at the national level. We need to take it to the international one. We need to make the leap from nationhood to a sense of identity that is truly global, but that embodies Rousseau’s point.

Apparently Bill agreed, he just didn’t think he could sell that to the masses. So, in the meantime he was, in Talbott’s words, “careful not to broadcast” these beliefs.”

For a critique of Goldberg’s analysis you may want to read the Cranky Conservative.