Alexis de Tocqueville was a French historian and political theorist who was well-known for his illustrious work, Democracy in America. Upon visiting America in the nineteenth century, he evaluated the presence of democracy in society, as well as the potentiality of America’s future development into a country of liberty or of tyranny. One of Tocqueville’s most heavily emphasized points in Democracy in America was the danger of “tyranny of the majority,” or the danger of an all-powerful majority that he believed directly threatened the prosperity of liberty and justice. Tocqueville examines the threat of “tyranny of the majority” by providing examples of possible repercussions, some of which, are still of concern in modern politics. In a democracy, the people are the source of power. However, like in all positions of power, the more powerful one becomes, the higher the possibility of corruption. This corruption occurs when one, in this case, the majority, becomes aware of their influence. Tocqueville recognizes the authority that the majority can possess, but also asserts his disapproval of its lack of restriction, as he considers it “detestable and blasphemous that in matters of the government the majority of a people has a right to do whatever it wishes, but yet I place the origin of all powers in the will of the majority.” (Tocqueville, 73). In saying this, he is acknowledging that though the majority can be powerful, it is not always guaranteed to be just. This omnipotence, he claims, is extremely threatening and the people of America are unaware of the danger it poses. This ignorance arises from the majority’s appeal to the American public. This appeal according to Tocqueville lies in its “moral superiority,” where the majority is fundamentally “based in part on the idea that there is more wisdom and talent in an assembly of men than in a single individual” (Tocqueville, 70). This is dangerous as it results in the belief that the majority does not need to be regulated, which can lead to true “tyranny of the majority.” The repercussions that would arise from the presence of an unrestricted majority are unlike any that the people have dealt with before. Tocqueville describes a situation in which a party or citizen suffers injustice at the hands of the majority, asking where the oppressed will turn to seek justice or find solace. They cannot turn to the public, the legislature, the president, the police, the jury or even judges, as every institution, in one way or another, is either consisting of or controlled by the majority. Tocqueville writes that under the control of the majority, no matter how, “unfair or unreasonable a measure that harms you may be, you must submit to it.”(Tocqueville, 75). Tocqueville also describes the bleak outcome of a figure that will not submit to the authority of the majority as he states, “in America, the majority draws a formidable circle around thought. Within its limits, the writer is free; but woe to anyone who dares to go beyond it.” (Tocqueville, 76-77). The individual who defies the majority is destined to live a life where he is ostracized. His friends and followers will also disappear for the fear of being rejected, just as society has rejected him. The fear that arises from these threats of exclusion will silence citizens into agreement with the majority, eliminating opposing opinions, and in turn, escalating the power of the majority. The threat of a tyrannical majority is still alive in modern society and politics. One recent example is the revival of the State of Jefferson movement in California. Established in 1941 by loggers and miners, the State of Jefferson movement calls for the secession of Northern California from Southern California to become their own state of Jefferson. The current push for secession comes from thirteen right-leaning counties nicknamed the “Great Red North.” These counties are rural, mountainous and wooded, accounting for over a fifth of the state’s land mass while only making up about three percent of California’s population (Fuller). These Californians believe that they are effectively being disenfranchised by the rest of their state, as California’s gun restrictions and environmental regulations have negatively affected their main industries and way of living. Most of these laws are decided upon in relation to their effects on the massive, left-leaning, population centers of Southern California without considering the impact on the rural, sparsely populated North. These Californians are directly referring to these issues as “tyranny of the majority,” and are willing to take a stand against their state’s own majority to defend what they believe is threatened. Though he extensively discusses the faults in the American democratic system, Tocqueville praises America’s constitution for the precautionary actions to prevent an unrestricted power. Tocqueville agrees that each branch must go through checks and regulate power, the people included. He recognizes that tyranny is not a guarantee in the States, but liberty must be protected by the appropriate regulations in both the climate of opinion and government action.

Categories: Articles


I'm Garrett!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out