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Alexis de Tocqueville and American Exceptionalism

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By Douglas V. Gibbs

Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831 and 1832 recognized the exceptional nature of the United States, and was amazed at how the politicians prayed, and the pastors preached politics, but government did not control religion, and the church restrained itself from intertwining itself with government. He noticed that though there was a certain level of separation between church and state, they also depended upon each other in a symbiotic manner. Tocqueville realized that America is great because America is good.

Alexis de Tocqueville was astonished by America because among the elites in Europe there was an anti-American sentiment that was sometimes believed by members of the general populace. The truth he learned by visiting the United States was very different from the criticisms of America by the political ruling classes of Europe.

Sigmund Freud said, “America is a great mistake.”

“Anti-Americanism was an elite view,” James Q. Wilson commented in an article in The American, “but it has spread deeper to publics here and abroad.”

Clearly, American Culture is different from any other culture in the world. The level of patriotism, individualism, religious beliefs, and our spirit of self-reliance sets the United States apart as a nation. As revealed in our founding documents, and the example provided by the everyday lives of Americans, we are a culture that holds dear our individual rights, while keeping a watchful eye on a potentially intrusive government. As a society, we largely support the limiting principles of the United States Constitution, expecting the role of the federal government to be restrained to only those functions necessary for protecting, promoting, and preserving the union. We expect our economy to grow as a result of a flourishing free market, with as little governmental interference as possible. Individualism means that we may encounter personal consequences, and we are fine with that, rather than expecting the government to somehow mend any vestige of perceived inequality.

The early history of America set the tone for our exceptionalism. Historically, America is diverse, rugged, and a land of individual opportunity. And for this, the United States was blessed with an incredible influx of immigrants who came to this nation desiring the opportunity to participate in the freedom, and exceptionalism, that America had to offer.

Alexis de Tocqueville appreciated this about America, and wrote glowingly about our trait of exceptionalism in his book, Democracy in America.
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Source: http://politicalpistachio.blogspot.com/2014/03/alexis-de-tocqueville-and-american.html


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