For our second installment of Tocqueville week, we turn to Chapter 3 of Book II of Democracy in America, where Tocqueville explains how equality in practice has become an amplifying feedback loop, to use a modern description:
The hatred men bear for privilege is increased as privileges become rarer and less great, so that one would say that democratic passions are more inflamed in the very times in which they find the least nourishment. I have already given the reason for this phenomenon. When all conditions are unequal, there is no inequality great enough to offend the eye, whereas the smallest dissimilarity appears shocking in the midst of general uniformity; the sight of it becomes more intolerable as uniformity is more complete. It is therefore natural that the love of equality grow constantly with equality itself; in satisfying it, one develops it.
This immortal hatred, more and more afire, which animates democratic peoples against the slightest privileges, particularly favors the gradual concentration of all political rights in the hands of the sole representative of the state. The sovereign, being necessary to all citizens and uncontested, does not excite the envy of any of them, and each believes he deprives his equals of all the prerogatives he concedes to it. . .
It can also be said that every central government adores uniformity. . .
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