IJMC Archives

July 2001
                 IJMC - Toqueville, Weber, and Policy

I dunno if my provider or the internet is having problems. But this is
all ya get cause typing is painful right now. A good friend and modern-day
gentleman wrote this, so I pass it along to you. Happy reading!      -dave

Why Ted Should be Republican

"Tocqueville worried that the excesses of individualism wouls turn
Amerincans inward toward self gratification, and the lack of public vitrue
would lead to political indifference, social conformity, and submission t
to the "tyranny" of majority opinion, a kind of creeping, quiet docility
that could possibly culminate in "democratic despotism." Weber worried
about the opposite tendency.  As though he had Tocqueville in mind, Weber,
observed that those who feared too much democracy and saw society as
nothing more that a "sandpile" of atomistic individualswere failing to see
its more integrating forces.  Instead of truning inward to the private
sphere of life, people turn to government to demand 'this and that',
asserting rights that require protections and interests that demand to be
served, and such popular pressures transform the state into an expanding
administrative monstrosity.  When people live not For politics, but Off
it, democracy begets bureaucracy."

These are powerful insights, but I think as my friend Ted reads them,
he'll say "Yes!  Their both right!"  There in lies the rub.

The central question here is what would precipitate the decline that
worried Tocqueville and Weber? Answer?  "Lack of virtue", or in other
words "Robert?, people are just plain evil, they're bad".

That last sentence is a quote from my friend and able mental sparring
partner Ted.  It seems to me that this is exactly the Republican party
line.  A famous quip explains the difference between Republicans and
Democrats this way:

Republicans believe you need a healthy fear of God and incentive from the
Government to make you be good.  Hence they try to make laws outlawing our
vices: Slavery, Alcohol, drugs, books, libraries, sex, etc.  leaving us to
do nothing better with our money but to buy food for our families and give
the rest to the church.  Democrats have a far easier solution:  take all
the money away."

A cynical view perhaps, but the gist is actually pretty reasonable, and I
believe, shows the key difference between Republicans and Democrats.
Republicans believe that only with a strong fear of God and potent
re-enforcement on earth via laws preventing all vice can people be
expected to behave well, as people are basically evil.

Democrats believe that were everyone given the right cirucumstances in
which to learn and think about things they can and will choose to live
well with faith in the reason divinely delivered, because, basically,
people would prefer to be good.

This can be boiled down even further either people are just plain bad and
so there must a be a strong regiment of operant conditions which gives
them a powerful incentive to not act on their baser impulses -or- given
the Right Circumstances of developement and training people can properly
decide for themselves what to do.

To me, however, the issue becomes freedom.  Do we believe we can handle

To limit books in libraries, or to scare people by letting the FBI/GBI see
the records, is to disuade them from viewing unpopular or risque material.  
Judy Bloom is the most famous Georgia example.  Mien Kampf is another.  
However, the reading of these books, in and of itself, has no virtue or
danger.  It's only the understanding that the reader infers that can be
virtuous or dangerous.

The question is whether we believe people (our children or our adults) are
sufficiently able to draw from these readings the proper understandings.  
Republicans seem to think not.  Democrats seem to think so.

That the country has spent much of the past half century with a split
government, rarely with all branches of one party or the other, I think
shows that we the people are of both minds on this question.


The paragraph is from the introduction of John Patrick Diggins' book Max
Weber: The Politics and the Spirit of Tragedy.  Basic Books published the
paperback in 1996.  Diggins is a great writer and historian.  His passion
is chronicling the progressive and pragmatic liberal consensus.

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