Written by Frank Li
I believe I have the most accurate diagnosis for America (Diagnosis for America (Version 3)) as well as the best solution (Solution for America (Version 3)). To best appreciate them, you must have an in-depth understanding of both democracy and America. Let’s begin with Alexis de Tocqueville.
1. Alexis de Tocqueville
In 1831, a 26-year-old Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville visited America. He traveled widely throughout the country, taking extensive notes about his observations and reflections. He returned to France in less than two years, and published a book entitled De la dÃ©mocratie en Amerique, as a summary of his American tour. The book was translated into English entitled Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840). Today, it is considered an early work, and a must-read, on democracy, sociology, and political science.
In his book, Tocqueville writes:
The American people, through their chosen representatives who were instructed by their wisdom and experience and were supported by their virtues – cultivated, purified and ennobled by self-reliance and the love of God – had matured, in the excellent wisdom of their counsels, a new plan of government, which embraced every security for their liberties and equal rights and privileges to all in the pursuit of happiness.
What a generous assessment of America by a young Frenchman at that time!
While Tocqueville was obviously impressed with America, especially its tremendous potential, he was oblivious to the plight of Americaâ€™s many problems at that time, to the point that I doubt whether he truly understood America and democracy. Two examples:
- “The American people” he referred to were actually less than half of the whole, as they included some selected white males only – American women and minorities were not involved at all in choosing “their” representatives, due to their lack of voting rights! For more, read: U.S. voting rights timeline.
- Slavery: With the rest of the world far ahead on slavery abolition (Abolition of slavery timeline), our Founding Fathers, of whom many were slave owners, chose to allow slavery much longer, eventually resulting in a disastrous war (i.e. American Civil War) that killed more Americans than all the other wars America has ever fought, combined!
To best understand Tocqueville and his book, we need to better understand France and America around that time …
2. France and America
America has been tightly linked with France since our first days! Three examples:
- The French were our allies in the American Revolution (1775-1783), which we might well have lost without their strong support.
- King Louis XVI was actually the only European monarch who recognized America before the Siege of Yorktown (1781), which was a decisive turning point for America in the war!
- Inspired by the American Revolution (1775-1783), the French had their own revolution (French Revolution, 1789-1799), which included, on January 21, 1793, the execution of Louis XVI, a staunch American ally throughout the American Revolution!
What happened to America after the American Revolution? A republic was born, and a revolution leader named George Washington who, after refusing to be named king, was elected as its first President. America thrived …
What happened to France after the French Revolution? An emperor replaced her king! Napoleon, a revolution leader, not only named himself the emperor, but also acted like one by waging wars against her many neighbors, only to be totally defeated in the end (Battle of Waterloo). After that, it was France in the long 19th century (1815-1914).
It was during the first quarter of France’s long 19th century (1815-1914) that Tocqueville published his famous book. No wonder he was so impressed with America, in stark contrast with France at that time!
Tocqueville was not the only Frenchman who adored America during their “long 19th century”. Here is a grander example: the French gave us the Statue of Liberty (dedicated on October 28, 1886)! It has been the most recognized symbol of freedom throughout the world ever since!
Unfortunately for the world, Tocqueville mistakenly confused democracy with America’s newfound success, hyping democracy, a tried but failed doctrine throughout human history, as a new and valid form of government. At least partially because of that, many tragedies have followed, especially over the past few decades, all over the world, from the Middle East to Ukraine. For more, read: Democracy Prevailed over Communism, Really?
3. America and democracy
Despite its many imperfections at the inception, America thrived rapidly to become the largest economy in the world by 1890 (surpassing China), and has not looked back ever since! Very notably, without America’s decisive contributions throughout World War II, today the French would likely be speaking German, while the Chinese would likely be speaking Japanese!
After WWII, America thrived so spectacularly that by 1989, when the Cold War was destined to end with the collapse of the USSR, an American scholar named Francis Fukuyama published an article entitled End of History?, hyping democracy as possibly the permanent winner of human evolution!
What a bunch of short-sighted authors, from Tocqueville to Fukuyama, with a complete misunderstanding of America, democracy, and even humanity!
Democracy, by the simple definition of one person, one vote, did not exist in America until 1965 (Voting Rights Act of 1965)!
4. American Democracy 1.0
American Democracy 1.0 officially started in 1965 (Voting Rights Act of 1965). It appeared to have succeeded until the turn of the 21st century. Since then, it has been failing so precipitously that it has become questionable whether American democracy will even out-last Soviet communism in longevity (Longevity: American Democracy vs. Soviet Communism)!
For more, read: Voting Rights Act, 50 Years Later.
5. What’s wrong with democracy proponents?
The biggest mistake by Tocqueville, as well as by Mr. Fukuyama and most democracy proponents, is to mix democracy with America’s superb capitalism combined with America’s great richness in natural resources!
It has become obvious that democracy and capitalism are quite separate and independent of each other. For example, China has emerged as a hugely successful capitalistic republic (aka “state capitalism”), with autocracy instead of democracy (Republic: Democracy vs. Autocracy)!
It also has become obvious that modern democracy is just as bad as ancient democracy! For example, democracy is failing in modern Greece (and America) for the same reason it failed in ancient Greece more than 2,000 years ago: debt!
Finally, it is becoming increasingly obvious that no abundance in natural resources can beat progressively worsening self-destruction, not even for America, due to both Democratic Socialism by the left and Democratic Imperialism by the right!
The image below highlights the key differences between American and China today, which can be used to explain many critical situations around the world, from the Middle East to Ukraine (Democracy Prevailed over Communism, Really?)!
6. Tocqueville vs. me
Overall, Tocqueville did a good job for his time. But history is the best judge for everything, including his book, America, and democracy!
Unlike Tocqueville who came to America in 1831 as a tourist, I escaped “communist China” in 1982 (for Japan) and came to America in 1985 as a Ph.D. student with the intention to stay. Furthermore, unlike Tocqueville, who saw his own country, France, lose her way during his lifetime, I not only see my native country, China, rise astronomically, but also have been fully taking advantage of it by running an import-export business between China and America (My American Dream Has Come True)! Finally, unlike Tocqueville who spent less than two years in America as a tourist, it has taken me, a U.S. citizen since 1997, some 30 years to finally understand, I think, the intricate relationships among communism, democracy, capitalism, China, America, and the world!
In short, I am much more experienced than Tocqueville in writing about America. Perhaps older is indeed wiser in this case. So it’s time for the world to shelve Tocqueville’s book, replacing it with mine (“Saving America, Chinese Style”)!
7. American Democracy 2.0
American Democracy 2.0 starts with the acceptance of my diagnosis for America (Diagnosis for America (Version 3)) as well as my solution (Solution for America (Version 3)).
America, reform our political system as I have suggested (Solution for America (Version 3)), or become an also-ran, second to China!
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