Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Tocqueville: The Majority Desire the Good of the Country

My annual Theory Camp began this week. We are reading Tocqueville's Democracy in America.

Tocqueville argues that in a democracy, the majority predominates. Moreover,

“That majority consists mainly of peaceful citizens who, whether by taste or interest, sincerely desire what is good for the country. Around them political parties constantly contend for their adherence and support.”


We considered the profound importance of the idea that most citizens sincerely desire what is good for the country. The parties then contend for the support of these good-willed citizens. I believe that party competition tends to hide the fact that the supporters of the other party are just as good-willed as we are.

To be sure, some individuals on the other side are venal and selfish; so are some individuals on our side. Nonetheless, American politics is much more civil when we can remember that our opponents sincerely desire what is good for the country. And even if I can't make American politics better by myself by holding to an even-handed civility about the contending parties, I can make myself happier and more contented if I stick to that view.

2 comments:

Benjamin said...

I tend to agree... but the tricky thing is getting around to an agreement on "what is good for the country" really is!

gruntled said...

I believe getting to such an agreement - or rather, compromise - is what politics is all about.