Democracy is a system of governance based on the principle that all members have equal rights to be involved in running an organization. All people of the society can vote to elect their representatives in the highest ranks of decision making. Democracy considers all people of a society to be equal rather than divided by money or social class.
However many believe that democracy has marked an uneasy conflict between the minorities and the majority. Democracy is often seen as a tyranny of the majority on the minorities. There is a danger in adopting a democratic system of governance because it does not hold the elected officials to be responsive enough to the balancing of popular will and the interests of the minority group. It has to be augmented with an initiative that seeks to put checks and balances on the political power of wealthy officials in order to preserve the interests and integrity of representative government.
Tocqueville has claimed that democracy bears many unfavorable consequences to the people of the society that practices it. He points out maladies like the tyranny of the majority of the principles of thought. Normally in democracies, the majority have their way and the minority only have their say. That say does not grant them anything. It does not imply being heard and so most often, the wealthy officials sway the majority of the population to support policies they hardly understand. When subjected to any form of a referendum, the majority will triumph and so their views end up being adopted.
As he points out, equality that democracy preaches only put men side by side without offering them any common link to hold them firm. This creates an avenue for despotism to set in as the citizens develop a stoicism towards any public virtues. Democracies with no proper policies and initiatives to keep such policies in check tend to breed despotism. As people tend to isolate themselves from the issues of public interests to concentrate in their own, despotism sets in to grab that isolation to guarantee its own permanence (Tocqueville, 509).
As a result of poor democratic practices, this vice slowly begins to take root and thrive. It then degenerates into egoism upon which it thrives best. As the few wealthy officials continue to amass the wealth of the society, the individual gets disillusion further and withdraws as the general indifference takes root. What Tocqueville seems to be criticizing is the tendency of democracy to inject feelings of alienation into the minds of its own people. In the end, people feel very dissociated with the product of democracy as the minority are completely locked out.
To him, democracy also breaks the chain that exists between individuals of a given society. While it empowers the individual to decide whether to remain with the majority or rebel, it also takes away the individual’s place in the society should he chose to view things differently. Individualism he argues, has it roots in egoism. Egoism is an exaggerated love for oneself leading him to think of everything else only in terms of himself (Tocqueville, 506). It makes the person fail to realize the vital connections that he has to others. In the end, it is democracy that severs those links. Its people are often isolated from political life as they fail to cultivate the necessary skills to engage them in any meaningful political action.
Tocqueville also believes that equality can be a very a very negative thing for it creates a certain attitude of apathy. People tend to argue that one vote does not really matter and that they can still move ahead as a majority. Democracy thus requires the interaction of individuals in order to create eudemonia and self interest that can rightly be understood to so that the interconnection between the individuals which is very crucial in the maintenance of popular governance. This is another warning from Tocqueville on the dangers posed by democratic practices. The preoccupation of the representatives with material goods and the eventual isolation of the individuals is seen as a dangerous recipe for confrontation. Democracy does not make the people feel that they are part of the government representation since they have no direct influence on society. They even do not see themselves as capable of having such privileges.
He sees individualism itself as another bad way to go and insists that humans cannot survive outside the society. They need it to acquire the language, thought and skills which are very basic for any kind of existence. Individualism only make them think self sufficient when in reality they dearly need the support of those around them. He says that democracy has often made people forget their ancestors and only think of those next to them. That is how the officials in the running of the government have managed to loosen the links between them and the people because they rarely come together to interact thus making their electorates feel not being part of the whole system.
If everyone, or even the majority chose to isolate themselves, democracy would crumble. This is because isolated individuals will lose the ability to act like ‘good citizens” and ultimately toy with the idea of even tyrannical takeover. However, Tocqueville also contradicts himself when he says that individualism is necessary (Tocqueville, 508). He points out that some level of individualism is necessary but seems not to know how much of it is. He is unsure of how much perilous this flaw can be. Although it is not necessarily a contradiction, it is obvious that he sees individualism as a volatile thing that is double edged. It is very necessary but again capable of great ruin. This therefore means that a constant balance must be maintained. One thus recalls the argument on the necessity of balancing initiatives to ensure that everybody feels accommodated by the system.
Though democracy nurtures ambition in the individuals, that ambition will eventually deviate from its immediate purpose and degenerate into an egoistic principle. What begins as a thought of inclusiveness ends up in a sorry idea of one’s own survival. While he will forget his own interest and think of the whole seemingly because he aspires for some representative position, once he gets it, he is likely to forget the electorate and only think of them again when such elections come. Many use dishonorable means to win elections and that could just be one of the many. During campaigns. Contenders often spread calumnies about their opponents and in the process give rise to feelings of hatred which get worse the more frequent the elections are held (Tocqueville, 510).
The problem with democracy is that it expels the aristocrats from their privileged positions of power as the equality principle takes toll on them. They lose their greatness and become strangers in the new society. As such they fail to recognize those who have been under them but have suddenly been catapulted into their new status. The latter too also do experience a mixture of feelings for they too do not want to meet their former superiors. It is therefore a confirmed conclusion that democratic revolutions alienate people more than it would unite them. This perpetuates a form of hatred that only has its origins in equality. To this extent, many tend to retreat to their family structures. Since family structures are not directly tied to political structures, many forget the lessons of the past and rarely care about the future.
To this extent, he applauds the American approach of using liberty to ward off a disorder that seems natural to the body of social democracy (Tocqueville, 511). They have managed by giving the people more opportunities to come together and interact thus enabling them to foster some togetherness and dependency on each other. Much more must be done to entrust the citizen’s with the management of the public assets than democracy merely offers. Some of these good achievements may win the people’s favor in a stroke (Tocqueville, 511). Rendering little service to your immediate neighbors help in gaining their respect and affection. That is what is required for the total disinterestedness upon which beneficial principles of democracy.