Tocqueville And Young On Freedom Essay Research — страница 2

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“equal opportunity”. Unlike in an aristocracy, they all had an opportunity to gain wealth power and prestige within the system. With this newfound equality, the people were frantically seizing these new opportunities. In addition, many Americans had an equal say in government. The people also seized the opportunity to influence their government with great fervor. It seems it was a combination of these behaviors, resulting from some degree of equal opportunity, which led to Tocqueville’s illusion of American freedom. Tocqueville knew that what he saw could not be freedom, because it could not coexist with such solidarity. Therefore, the people were not free due to the constraints that were imposed by the majority. In a democracy based on majority rule it was advantageous for

individuals to be on the side that wins, the majority. In effect, the influence of the majority on the public enabled cohesion within the culture. The members of the public were not acting by their own free will, but were acting in what way they were conditioned to act. The system is set up in such a way that the majority has an empty overwhelming amount of power over those in the minority. Tocqueville writes about the effect of such a majority on individual freedom: “I know of no country in which there is so little true independence of mind and freedom of discussion as in America The sovereign can no longer say, “You shall think as you do on pain of death”; but he says, “You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life your property, and all you

possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people. You may retain your civil rights, but they will be useless to you You will remain among men, but you will be deprived of the rights of mankind. Your fellow creatures will shun you like an impure being; and those who are most persuaded of your innocence will abandon you too, lest they should be shunned in turn.” Tocqueville theorized that this power of the majority forced conformity on individuals, thus diminishing their individuality. It seems to be a prophecy of what would later happen in the “red scare” at the height of McCarthyism and in many other events in American history. Toqueville noted that Americans tended to cherish the formative notion of equality even more so than the

idea of freedom. This may be because equality is more accessible. It is much easier to create a system based on equal opportunity than to maintain a society of autonomous citizens. This may explain why Americans came to identify equality as the primary goal of government. In the Rise of the Meritocracy Michael Young also recognizes the conflict between freedom and equality. He writes of a system much like our current one but at a more advanced stage, a system, which is so focused on efficiency, social order, and equal opportunity that it nearly eliminates individual freedom. He foresees a system where the government determines one’s self worth based on what role one can fulfill in the system. Just as Tocqueville warned that American democracy may mutate into an industrial

aristocracy, Young writes of a system based on hierarchical roles achieve through government determined merit. The government does not discriminate by race, gender, religion, appearance or any other forms of discrimination common in the status quo. Its decisions are made solely on one’s “self-achieved” merit. This is a system that has much greater equal opportunity then any political system that has ever existed. People can achieve their desired positions through effort and intelligence. If they are still unable to achieve their desired position than they simply are not qualified to hold it. Young emphasizes the fact that every person in the society has his or her role in the system, just like a machine, every part is necessary for it to function. However, we are not parts

of a machine, we are human beings with thoughts, emotions and desires which transcend the monotony of a specialized role in a national machine. Young alludes to Tocqueville’s argument that: “When a workman is constantly and exclusively engaged in making one object, he ends by performing this work with singular dexterity Everyday he becomes more adroit and less industrious, and one may say that in his case the man is degraded as the workman improves.” People are judged and recognized only according to their merit, the rest of their individualism goes unnoticed, by others and eventually even by themselves. The real danger of a meritocratic system is that it may stifle individual freedom and confidence to such a degree that the public is left helpless at the feet of their own