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Now playing on a campus near you: De Tocqueville’s “The End of Democracy in America”

Now playing on a campus near you: De Tocqueville’s “The End of Democracy in America”

It took five centuries before the strychnine of corruption and fatigue finally killed the Roman Empire (né Republic). It’s taken the U.S. about five decades to reach a point where such a suicidal whimper no longer seems unthinkable.

If you want to know why we’re getting there faster, look no further than Professor Jacobson’s important post the other day at College Insurrection about what’s happening at his (undergraduate) alma mater: Western Civilization driven off campus at Hamilton college.

…By 2004-2005, Hamilton was among the most politically dogmatic campuses, evidenced by the controversial employment offer to pardoned terrorist Susan Rosenberg (who ended up withdrawing) and speaking invitation to Ward Churchill.

It was so bad that the college refused to allow the fully-funded Alexander Hamilton Center for the Study of Western Civilization on campus, resulting in the creation of  The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization off campus in “downtown” at the bottom of the hill (in the same building as the former Alexander Hamilton Inn, for those of you familiar with Clinton).  (You can donate to AHI here.)

Read the whole thing.  Then read this post from yesterday by John Hinderaker at Powerline about the new Minnesota public school guidelines for teaching history:

As you read them, you imagine a senile old man, shuffling around in his pajamas and muttering, “Race, class, gender…race, class, gender.” Everything is about demographic interest groups.

College Insurrection covers such madness every day.  As does the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

For those who were never poisoned by similar nonsense or (like me) have overcome the poison with an antidote of autodidacticism, it’s natural to wonder why American academics are such oikophobes.  After all, history teaches that intellectuals are usually an early target of both the left and the right after regime change.

The answer has something to do with atrophied muscles.  Three generations have passed since the West faced an existential threat—and four since the average academic and his average neighbor might have missed a meal unrelated to their newest fad diet.  When you’re born into relative prosperity, insulated from the vicissitudes of life, and everyone in your social and professional circle validates your thinking, there ain’t much reason to question reality—especially if you believe in your own superiority.

Eventually, this will lead nowhere good. British intellectuals of the early 20th century considered British involvement in World War One to have been a mistake, given the island’s insulation from the madness on the continent; and they particularly objected to the UK’s first-ever forced conscription that required even the elite to participate somehow.

Fighting between nations was an obsolete notion, they contended, because nation states themselves were obsolete.  Thus came the infamous, pacifistic Oxford Pledge in 1933—followed inevitably six years later by Hitler’s wake-up call.

Here’s the great Thomas Sowell in Intellectuals and Society:

[Cyril] Joad said that “the best way to ensure peace is to refuse in any circumstances to make war.”  He urged “an intensive campaign to induce the maximum number of young people to announce their refusal to fight in any war between nations.

Joad was one of those who wrote graphically of the horrors and agonies of war, though Winston Churchill [who himself had fought-JE] warned that Britain “cannot avoid war by dilating upon its horror.”  In Britain, as in France, patriotism was considered suspect as a cause of war.  H.G. Well, for example, declared himself against “the teaching of patriotic histories that sustain and carry on the poisonous war-making tradition of the past” and wanted British citizenship replaced by “world citizenship.”  He regarded patriotism as a useless relic to be replaced by “the idea of cosmopolitan duty.”  J.B. Priestly likewise saw patriotism as “a mighty force, chiefly used for evil.  A letter to The Times of London in 1936, signed by such prominent intellectuals as Aldous Huxley, Rebecca West, and Leonard Woof, called for “the spread of the cosmopolitan spirit” and called for “writers in all countries” to “help all peoples to feel their underlying kinship.”

Nearly a century before World War Two, de Tocqueville put his finger on the issue of valuing what you’ve earned yourself as opposed to that which is given to you, no matter how deserving you are of receiving it.

If freedom is refused to the Negroes in the South, in the end they will seize it themselves; if it is granted to them, they will not be slow to abuse it.

His observation, though specific to black slaves, is applicable to everyone on earth.  Human nature, it seems, assigns greater value to (a) what we’ve lost and (b) what we’ve worked for than it does to what we assume to be inherently and irrevocably ours.  As it turns out, literally nothing falls into that latter category.  Including and especially liberty.  There’s always someone waiting to take it.

If young people who will eventually be voting adults learn that the U.S. is neither exceptional nor indispensable—that its history is one of oppression and trampled rights; that the world might possibly have reached Utopian standards had Columbus not reached these shores, and that our Constitution is “a charter of negative liberties,” as Obama once put it—there’s little reason for them to care whether the American republic survives.

What ensues then will not be hilarity.


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“It’s taken the U.S. about five decades to reach a point where such a suicidal whimper no longer seems unthinkable.”

Yeah, but we have WAY better technology…!!! Our decline can proceed at lightening speed…

right up until the electrons stop coming to our homes, which is part of the plan, IMNHO.

Few of us really appreciate how thin is the veneer of our civilization.

:: sigh :: Once again, a conflation of the Empire and the Republic. We’re not waiting to see with whom Odovacar replaces Romulus Augustulus; we’re seeing the Ruling Class at their height and a decade or so before the American Marius politicizes the army and militarizes politics; the American Caesar has not yet been born, let alone the American Augustus.

    While I appreciate your historical insight and share your reservations, nowadays things move faster than they used to.

    I’ve seen leftist descriptions of Obama as center-right, even as (really!) an Eisenhower Republican.

    IMHO this is battlespace preparation, intentional or otherwise.

    Although half of Democrats have a positive view of socialism, I think an attempt to overtly nationalize the economy is unlikely until the President after President Elizabeth Warren, i.e. for another decade or two. Despotic government could plausibly follow close on nationalization.

    (IMHO a radical President like Warren is not an inevitable development, but I don’t think the GOP and conservative movement will prevent it if they continue with business as usual. My hopes rest on the nation’s track record of self-renewal.)

    The text says the Roman empire devolved from a republic before dying. Where’s the conflation?

Boehner is a coward! Obama is an evil Kenyan Mooslim jihadi Afrocentrist black supremacist Communist homosexual Manchurian Candidate traitor President! Akin-Mourdock 2016!

Once upon a time, conservatives were successful at standing “athwart history yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”

Today, it’s not surprising that strident, nasty, intellectually bankrupt crazies lose elections.

    gs in reply to gs. | December 27, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Today, it’s not surprising that strident, nasty, intellectually bankrupt crazies lose elections.

    Not to ignore the GOP’s corporate harlots, who suck up even to business interests which are implacable enemies of the party and what it (supposedly) stands for. The Derek Khanna affair is a recent example.

It is the paradox of civilization. A decadent state of living causes a progressive dissociation of risk.

It seems that human behavior can be modeled by physical laws.

Newton’s Three Laws of Motion

1. Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

The object is people. The state of motion is corruption.

Progressive corruption will become conclusive corruption unless acted upon by morality, which in human society is enforced through competing interests (ultimately individuals).

2. F = ma

Corruption will increase directly proportionate to increasing number people or dysfunctional behaviors.

3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This assumes a balance between corrupt and moral individuals. This assumption is increasingly unwarranted as we normalize behaviors which are either marginally or strictly dysfunctional.

Nature provides insight into our seemingly nebulous human problems.

It is a dissociation of risk which causes corruption. It is dreams of instant gratification which motivates its progress.

Our “good” intentions have accelerated reaching critical mass.

Progressive corruption becomes conclusive corruption.

BannedbytheGuardian | December 27, 2012 at 7:27 pm

I think it is a good & necessary thing that institutes &. Centers of thought remain off campus.

In this case they should. Develope their own mini college eg an Alexander Hamilton Institute diploma available to all on?ine & via seminars across the country.

Forget the donations -charge a f*** fee. Tear down that Ivory Tower – let the people in!

Diversity (supposedly the prize; exclusion and not inclusion) now means anyone other than a straight white male. They were after all for the most part the foundation builders of America. So now these white males must be disqualified by a perverse reading of history as proffered by praise seeking professors in search of a means to a narcissistic end.

BTW: Denigrating America is detrimental to the millions who have come to our shores in the hope of what America offered: liberty to self-govern oneself to a better life under God.

[…] most Americans educated in our public schools have no idea what a free market would look like. See Legal Insurrection and The Other McCain for more on this topic. The progressives have been writing the history and […]

“[de Tocqueville’s] observation … is applicable to everyone on earth. Human nature, it seems, assigns greater value to (a) what we’ve lost and (b) what we’ve worked for than it does to what we assume to be inherently and irrevocably ours.”

—Of course, what Joel conveniently fails to mention is that Alexis’s equally great contemporary, de Flukeville, reached the opposite conclusion.

TeaPartyPatriot4ever | December 27, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Political manipulation, however subtle or overt, by the anti-American, anti-US Constitutional, anti-Capitalist, anti-Individual Freedom and Liberty MSMedia and Academia, is to promote and indoctrinate their pro-socialist marxist ideology message to implant their political image and perception in hearts, minds, and souls into the public populace, is always the main objective of those in power, control, and access- ie; to dictate and engrain the political message of lies, which is the poison they inject into society that eventually morally ethically spiritually internally decays and corrupts the very soul of a culture and nation-ie; it’s people, to the point of collapse, then non-existence.

If one were to ask why these Marxist useful idiots, whether San Donaldson or Obama, or whomever, do they really think and believe that voluntarily surrendering their Individual sovereignty to a all powerful entity / govt, is what is good and right, they would say yes- which therein lies the power of indoctrination, the complete and total deletion of all logic, reason, common sense, and in particular morals- ie; conservative values and principles, which is the reason the must destroy religion, that which instills that sense of morality- ie; the understanding and acceptance of what is actually good and bad, right and wrong in life, etc..

This is the very definition of a useful idiot fool, but which they, anti-American liberal socialist marxists, who have also aligned and allied themselves with the evilness of radical Islam, have no idea and concept of their horrific ideological reality. Like zombies in a permanent state of trance, they cannot clearly see the complete asinine illogic and stupidity of it all.. Even with all the fact- record of evidence that proves them wrong.. and this is from supposed grown mature educated adults. Hence the power of indoctrination.

“A nation can survive its fools and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly against the city. But the traitor moves among those within the gates freely, his sly whispers rustling through all alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears no traitor; he speaks in the accents familiar to his victim, and he wears their face and their garments and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation; he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city; he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared. The traitor is the plague.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman Orator – 106-43 B.C.

TeaPartyPatriot4ever | December 27, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Just an added note-

They say you can’t fool all the people, all the time- but they can fool enough of them to make a “majority” of useful idiot fools.. Thus therein lies the danger we now face, a majority army of useful idiot fools.

The “charter of negative liberties” thing is a misunderstanding of what’s wrong with Obama’s position.

Negative liberties are liberties like the prohibition on involuntary servitude, like the prohibition on government censorship of news, like the prohibition on government forced self-incrimination. They are “negative” in the sense that the government is negated from taking specific actions to oppress us.

What Obama wants is “positive” liberties. He wants the government to be compelled to do specific things, like buy all of his voters a pony, because then they’ll have the liberty to ride a pony without the nasty drawback of having to earn enough to afford a pony.

“Negative liberties” are, essentially, the right to be left alone. “Positive liberties” are the popular obligation to provide goodies for everyone.

That’s why he doesn’t like the Bill of Rights or anything else about the US. It’s not about buying his voters free stuff. It limits the power of government to procure free stuff or to bully others into providing free stuff. Or just to bully or kill the people Obama hates, which he would do if he could (and will do whenever he can).

Brilliant post.

I’ve found great liberty in the 2012 election results that the number of free stuff looters has exceeded the number of contributors.

I see that the titanic is sinking, while I may push to save her, my bigger concern is for the health and wealth of me in my golden years (20-40 years out) and that my children are able to keep our prosperity out of the hands of looters.

I look to history to show me what the upper class peasants have done to preserve their estates from the legions of takers.

Not to get all “prepper” on you, but this my friends is a topic worthy of much discussion.

Atrophy — yes And also Agency.

List incomplete and in no good order: Marx, Lukacs, Frankfurt school, Alinsky, NWRO, Wade Rathke, Soros, Cloward and Piven, teachers unions, Trumka, Obama, and assorted dupes (msn, teachers — of the young and of the college-age, “uninformed voters” per Limbaugh, etc.), etc. etc.

I like to see Agency. If yes, Agency of a different stripe can effect a course change.