American Government

Alexis de Tocqueville traveled the United States in the 1830s and he loved it. He was especially pleased with the great number of associations Americans participated in and how this contributed to democracy. However, in this article, he is very critical of one aspect of American democracy. Once a “majority opinion” has been formed, people who disagree with it are shunned. He says it is better to have your bones broken by a tyrant. In the US you are free to disagree, but “you are dead to us.” (I really hope you read it on your own). The intro says it was really like that in the 1830s, but I think there are remnants of it today…very few people dared to speak out against the Iraq war when it started, for example, and a few years later, it became almost impossible to say something positive in favor of the war without being accused of being a warmonger. The “public opinion” was very strong in favor of it at first and then just as strong opposed to it. Are we still slaves to public opinion? In what ways are we similar or different from the people de Tocqueville describes?

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