Scott Postma

A blog about the Great Books, the Craft of Writing, and Human Flourishing.

Who’s Driving this Ship Anyway?

In 1831, Alexis De Tocqueville toured the new American republic.

In celebration of the greatness of the American experiment so many men and women gave their Lives, their Fortunes and their sacred Honor to secure and protect, I offer the following few of his manifold observations (and the added bonus of my very brief but poignant perspective):

Among the new objects that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States, none struck my eye more vividly than the equality of conditions…

So, therefore, as I studied American society, more and more I saw in equality of conditions the generative fact from which each particular fact seemed to issue, and I found it before me constantly as a central point at which all my observations came to an end…

A great democratic revolution is taking place among us: all see it, but all do not judge it in the same manner. Some consider it a new thing, and taking it for an accident, they still hope to be able to stop it; whereas others judge it irresistible because to them it seems the most continuous, the oldest, and the most permanent fact known in history…

The gradual development of equality of conditions is therefore a providential fact, and it has the principal characteristics of one: it is universal, it is enduring, each day it escapes human power; all events, like all men, serve its development…

When the American Republic begins to degenerate, I believe that one will be able to recognize it easily: it will be enough to see if the number of political judgments rises.

-Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835

Our nation is in dangerous waters. We’re no longer drifting. We’ve cut the ropes entirely. The moorings and way points we’ve known for more than 200 years are vanishing aft in yonder horizon. We are, at this moment, driven by the raging currents of an epithymatic soul.


While rakish patrons dance to band music on the ship’s deck, our three-headed captain sings along to Frank Sinatra’s I Did It My Way, steering madly toward the same rapids that have capsized and crushed the greatest ships that have ever sailed the seas of humanity.

In the spirit of our independence from tyranny and the American Revolution that we are celebrating today, shouldn’t we be willing to take the steering wheel away from the three-headed derelict and turn the ship around before it sinks?

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About Scott Postma

Scott is a writer and teacher living in North Idaho. He loves teaching the Great Books, writing and blogging, and collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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One Reply

  1. Ricardo

    No doubt we’re all here to die, so why not just make the most of the journey of doom if that’s what you see? I don’t want to be like Parish Hilton screaming and cursing only to find out it was a prank.