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Primary Problems of Democracy

The primary problems of democracy addressed by the The Federalist Papers, and Alexis de Tocqueville have to do with balancing competing interests or goals. These problems include balancing the powers of the states and the federal government, the power of the majority and the rights of the minority or minorities, the power of small states and the power of large states, the slave states and the non-slave states, the power of elites and the rights of the non-elites, the rights of individuals and the need for a government powerful enough to maintain law and order, the need for representative government and the need to keep the people politically involved, and the need for an effective government and the need to prevent a repetition of the sort of tyranny against which the colonies revolted.

The views of the authors of The Federalist Papers and de Tocqueville stand in stark contrast to one another in their perceptions of these various balancing acts. The Federalist Papers reveal a distrust of "the people" and a pessimistic perspective of their ability to govern themselves. The essence of the Papers is their emphasis on the need for a strong central government which gives the people and the states as little power as possible.

De Tocqueville, on the other hand, seems to be a naive, romantic tourist from another planet, in awe of the glowing experiment of American democracy and its inherent faith in the ability of the people to effectively govern themselves. He almost invariably sees the best in every political landscape he views and appears to idealistically consider the American people to be a special race superior to all others in terms of their political wisdom and abilities.

The perspective of the authors of the papers (referred to henceforth as Madison) is that the federal government must be strong in order to prevent disorder in the nation and between the federal and state powers, as well between and among the other competi...

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Primary Problems of Democracy. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:26, August 14, 2020, from