Monday, January 24, 2011

Alexis De Tocqueville Attributed America's Prosperity to Local, Participatory Democracy

 Alexis De Tocqueville in Democracy in America attributed America's prosperity and wealth to the experience American's derive from local, participatory democracy:
"Local assemblies of citizens constitute the strength of free nations. Town-meetings are to liberty what primary schools are to science...A nation may establish a system of free government, but without the spirit of municipal institutions it cannot have the spirit of liberty."

"I have no doubt that the democratic institutions of the United States, joined to the physical constitution of the country, are the cause of the prodigious commercial activity of the inhabitants. It is not engendered by the laws, but the people learns how to promote it by the experience derived from legislation."

"In America I met with men who secretly aspired to destroy the democratic institutions of the Union...but I know of no one who does the advantages of local institutions in the foremost rank...The only nations which deny the utility of provincial liberties are those who have fewest of them."
Although our townmeetings are poorly attended and our neighbors are often strangers, there is reason to believe that the Local Spirit has not fled America. The internet has, in many ways, revived our Local Spirit. The 2010 Elections saw the greatest turnover in American congressmen since the Great Depression. Political debate and idealism have returned to our conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Another example of Local Spirit on the internet is in Egypt, Tunisia, and Iran. Democratic revolutions have been coordinated as a result of Local Spirit through the internet. Moreover, I believe that this is only the beginning. Entrepreneurship, liberty, and solidarity will accelerate in the 21st Century as the Local Spirit of liberty sweeps across the world.

How Will You Measure Your Life?

I recently read this article by Clayton Christiansen out of Harvard entitled, “How will you measure your life?” It is what he tells his students on the final day of his class.

One of the items that he mentions sticks out to me. It reads as follows:

“One of the theories, . . . . . how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. I tell the students about a vision of sorts I had while I was running the company I founded before becoming an academic. In my mind’s eye I saw one of my managers leave for work one morning with a relatively strong level of self-esteem. Then I pictured her driving home to her family 10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem affected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with greater self-esteem—feeling that she had learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things, and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. I then imagined how positively that affected her as a spouse and a parent. My conclusion: Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. More and more [people think] that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people."

I’m sure you can see why it sticks out.