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The Tocqueville Paradox

China has been on our collective minds recently, hasn’t it? 

From displays of naval sea power off the coast of Taiwan, to infectious pathogens walking out of a viral disease laboratory in Wuhan, to some dude eating a boiled bat, China has caused us both fear and intrigue. 

One of our major concerns (or at least it should be) is that China is essentially a totalitarian dictatorship.  We know this… but they sell us cheap crap we can pick up at deeply discounted prices at Costco… so we watch our giant screen TVs, enjoy our inexpensive (relatively) cell phones, and conveniently ignore the plight of their people. 

De Opresso Liber.

(Unless the “opresso” is funding a new public works project in your district.)

So, rather than spend our time pondering the fate of China (pro tip:  long term it’s not good), let’s look at some rather interesting political dynamics that have taken place at home. 

California, New York, and Michigan have enacted some incredible draconian central policies.  Not laws… for the most part, gubernatorial edicts that have been enforced as laws.  These policies have abrogated the people’s constitutional rights, have been arbitrary and capricious, and have hidden behind “science” as a pathetic justification for supplanting citizens’ rights to choose how to organize their lives and secure their protection for the more erudite, acceptable desires of their rulers. 

We call this a dictatorship.

President Trump pontificated that he would like to see businesses reopen.  Soon.  Well… some businesses… tattoo parlors and spas… well… he doesn’t like tattoo parlors and spas… they should stay closed.  But the businesses he does like… yeah… they should open up soon.

(One can only imagine the list of “first to open” businesses had this happened in a Bill Clinton administration if he asserted the same political philosophy of Presidential largess.)

In Texas (Texas?!?) a judge demanded that a woman operating her hair salon bend the knee before him and admit to being “selfish”, apologize for her “counter-revolutionary” behavior, and seek the forgiveness of the petit tyran.   She refused and was promptly jailed.  Fortunately, the Supreme Court of Texas intervened and she was released from custody. 

This elevation of the ruling class to the status of “master” will have massive unintended consequences.  It also uniquely gives states like California, that have long languished under collectivist colonization, an opportunity to finally free itself from serfdom.

This brings us to the Tocqueville Paradox:

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De Tocqueville noticed something in 1835 when he wrote Democracy in America.  He was trying to understand our national character, and how we became who we are.  To do this he compared our young republic to Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece.  He noticed a paradoxical pattern that began to appear again and again.  While this epiphany was by no means the central core of his writing, his recognition of it has earned him the moniker.  Essentially, the Tocqueville Paradox states that when a dictatorship begins to overextend its power against its own citizens, the State itself becomes threatened.  When a “strongman”  (sorry… ”strong person”) rules in an arbitrary manner at the expense of the body politic, there is only so much annoyance that the people are prepared to endure.  Once a certain point is reached, the ruling class, in an effort to maintain its status, “arranges” for a removal of the “strong-person”.  That person is then replaced with a “reformer”.  This is where the paradox kicks into high gear.  Though the “reformer” begins to ease the restrictions of the predecessor, this newfound freedom creates a cascade event that ultimately and quickly leads to the complete overthrow of the ruling class. 

We saw this in Ancient Greece, we saw this in Ancient Rome, we saw this in Ancient China, we have seen this in Modern Germany, Modern Russia, and now… perhaps… Modern California, Modern New York, and Modern Michigan.

The people are beginning to realize that the Mandarins are incompetent and inept.  They have created a beast we must pay for that sits beside us daily and supplants our decisions with its decisions. 

One of the most interesting things to watch on a large-scale social level was how China switched from its One-Child Policy to its now Two-Child Policy.  For years China promulgated to their citizens that the One-Child Policy would lead to happiness and economic prosperity.  Its local apparatchiks carried out this policy through social pressure, patronage, forced abortions, and imprisonment.  It was cruel and barbarous… but it came to the people from learned “scientists” in the Central Committee. 

Then they changed it. 

It was no longer a good idea.  The Politburo realized that its demographics were on a crash course with economic realties… it needed more “people”.   The propaganda needed to be switched and sterilized immediately!  Now it is a Two-Child Policy that will bring happiness and rainbows!

Yet those who were heavily involved in the One-Child Policy were simply cast aside.  They were no longer “useful”… but they were, and are still, citizens of China.  Suddenly the government telling them what to do… what decisions they must make is laid bare as corrupt, at the worst, inept at the best. 

What will happen here in the States?  Will the “leaders” in our dictatorial States be “removed from power” by the entrenched Mandarins seeking to maintain their control?  Quite possibly… then the “reformer” will emerge.

For what happens after that… we should remember De Tocqueville, and be prepared for a new regime based on limited government, liberty, protection of the minority, and a political philosophy that is fundamentally rooted in the dignity of the individual.  Then, once again, we renew our belief that government is empowered by The People… that The People have instituted government for the singular purpose of securing the rights granted to all by their Creator.