How American Democracy Is Improved: Historical Accidents or Political Principles?

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How American Democracy Is Improved: Historical Accidents or Political Principles?

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The Founders’ theory of democracy was articulated in a coherent theory that they conceived as a rational whole. It was not an amalgam of disparate ideas and customs blended together by blind historical forces originating in their colonial and European past. What, then, does Tocqueville think is the basis of majority rule? Unlike the Founders, he has little to say on this important question. At one point, he makes this observation: “In nations where the dogma of the sovereignty of the people reigns, each individual is…supposed to be as enlightened, as virtuous, as strong as any other of those like him.”[15] Hardly anyone in the Founding era would have agreed with this remark, for everyone was aware that human beings are unequal in regard to virtue, intelligence, beauty, and so on. Jefferson, Madison, and the other Founders justified periodic elections in part on the ground that it would lead to greater competence in government than would a democracy without elected representatives. Ac