In 1835, a Frenchman named Alexis De Tocqueville, having traveled the breadth of America, published a two-volume set entitled “Democracy in America.” Thousands of observations are found in this wonder book. One stands out – for reference now, in this perilous moment.
Today in America and around the world, a silent bell tolls – with potentially devastating impact on all of us. A great battle is being progressively joined, a battle of ideas, between freedom and communism, between equality in the context of self-determination and equality under communist rule.
Interestingly, the idea of communism – a utopian ideology justifying oppressive centralized control as “good for the greatest number” – did not exist when the young 30-year-old published his epic track. Still, De Tocqueville, who loved America and saw the nation destined for greatness, saw that threat.
In a section about “political consequences” of America’s “social condition,” which he praised as an extraordinary balance of rugged individualism and harmonic social acceptance, he makes a single, powerful – if also simple – point.
His point: “I know of only two methods of establishing equality in the political world: Every citizen must be put in possession of his rights, or rights must be granted to no one.” Bingo!
The power of De Tocqueville’s mind – and his semi-reverence for the American people – are all the more compelling because he wrote when Karl Marx was a mere adolescent. Wrote De Tocqueville: “There is a manly and lawful passion for equality which excites men to wish all to be powerful and honored.”
He continued: “This passion tends to elevate the humble to the rank of great; but there exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom.”
He notes that Americans have “an instinctive love of freedom,” and so seem to innately understand that an aspiration for the good equality – what we might call equality of opportunity to excel – is in our nature. We like the idea that all have an equal shot at honor and glory, peace and prosperity.
He then notes that in a state subject to the second kind of equality, where all are lowered to one lowest common denominator by a powerful, in effect totalitarian government – such as communism today – the outcome and sense of hope is very different.
In such a place, under such an interpretation of equality – the definition that is propounded by Chinese Communism, founded on Soviet ideology – things are markedly different. People are repressed in the extreme. “It becomes difficult for them to preserve their independence against the aggressions of power.”
He looks on that sad state with dread and warning, noting that individuals become subjugated, and “nothing but a general combination can protect their liberty,” as they are picked off, one by one. He notes that Americans are unique – as they have been able to establish and become a fierce protector of their liberty and “sovereignty.”
And so, this is once again the great battle – a battle of ideas, in which freedom and good equality face off against the oppressors, a joint China-Russia pact to confront the West and redefine “human rights,” in other words, to redefine them away.
This perilous moment for freedom and equal opportunity, is one almost foreseen by the French historian. From his day, he saw how unique America was – and the contrast we represent with all that had come before, and with all that would come ahead.
To win the day, we must see how unique we are – and love that uniqueness, and then defend it. The alloy of liberty and an equal chance for all to advance, to apply our individual liberty, is what he celebrated, and what makes us the powerhouse we are. The exact opposite is communism.
Equality in a democracy or free republic is invariably flawed, but it is aspiring to the ideal, which centers on and honors the individual. Equality in communism is hell on earth, oppression of all equally. We must never forget this – especially right now.
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