Not only does democracy make men forget their ancestors, but it also clouds their view of their descendants and isolates them from their contemporaries. Each man is forever thrown back on himself alone, and there is danger that he may be shut up in the solitude of his own personal interests.
ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE, Democracy in America ( 1840)1
One of the most illuminating commentaries on the history of this country is the writing of the French nobleman Alexis de Toqueville about the fledgling United States in the 1830s.
De Toqueville made a number of prescient observations. One of them was that the self-interest of individuals fostered by a capitalistic democracy enhanced economic prosperity, but it did not create a "serviceable bond" between individuals and their communities. The emphasis on financial gain encouraged people to exchange money rather than personal relationships. As a result, de Toqueville foresaw that Americans would become alienated from each other as each person became immersed in the selfish pursuit of material gain.
De Toqueville's prediction has come true in many ways. Since his time alienation has fragmented families and permeated the fabric of our