A great number of commentaries had been made in the attempt to figure out the source of America’s unique political system. The proponent of this study finds it prudent to focus on three commentaries authored by Alexis de Tocqueville, Edward Greenberg, and Seymour M. Lipset. These three men identified the cultural and social factors that paved the way for the creation of a new and unique political system.
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A Greater Degree of Economic Equality and the Absence Cultural and Economic Structures Supporting the Rise of Aristocracy
Lipset and Tocqueville’s commentaries shared common ground when it came to the idea of equality. Lipset quoted a historian named Crevecoeur who made the assertion that in the United States there was no significant gap between the rich and the poor. Lipset strengthened this argument by not only acknowledging Crevecoeur’s arguments but also adding his own commentary, stating that at the time of writing, America was not a former colonial backwater. Lipset cited as proof the fact that Philadelphia and other colonial American centers were filled with highly educated people, and these cities even managed to contribute to the improvement in Great Britain’s scientific progress.
Lipset underscored the fact that the United States at the end of the American Revolution was not a poor country, and yet the gap between the rich and the poor was not as pronounced as that of their European counterparts. Lipset made the argument that due to this cultural and economic phenomenon, American citizens did not find a lot of reasons to complain or feel that they need to rebel against the newly formed government. Lipset’s argument made more sense when he described a cultural and economic landscape that was not affected by the presence of a military class, a group of individuals that created socio-economic problems in fledgling nations in other parts of the world.
A Cultural and Economic Framework Built and Enhanced by Liberalism
Tocqueville also identified the significant level of equality in the newly established nation. However, Tocqueville clarified the reason for the emergence of an egalitarian society, and he said that this is due to the absence of aristocracy, specifically the European-type of aristocracy that has caused stability problems in that part of the world. The author pointed out the cultural and economic consequences of encouraging people to work harder in order to be successful. Tocqueville made a great point when he said that the people deemed affluent and those that had access to resources when he visited America, the same group of individuals were once poor members of society, and yet they managed to become rich.
Combining Lipset and Tocqueville’s idea paints a picture of a cultural and economic setting that was very much different from that of Great Britain or societies that were dominated by the landed gentry or the aristocracy. It is difficult to hate the ruling class if the mayors, senators, and governors eat the same type of food and go to the same church.
Greenberg summarized the observation of Tocqueville and Lipset as the byproducts of liberalism. Greenberg cited the difficulty of explaining the development of a unique American culture, economy and politics without acknowledging the impact of liberalism. Greenberg clarified his position when he said that liberalism meant individualism, private property, self-regulating markets, and limited government control. The author made the assertion that liberalism created a different culture, a different mindset, and a different economic framework that inspired people to work harder, because when they try to observe the socio-economic environment, they saw an economic and political structure that was created to ensure the individual’s success.
Combining the ideas of the three authors yields a common denominator simplified as the creation of “greater levels of individual freedom” for every American citizen. European nations guaranteed the same type of freedom. However, in the United States, American citizens are not only guaranteed the ability to own property, they are assured that the government will never be able to take away the said property without just compensation or the legal process needed for a legitimate transfer of ownership. American citizens are not only guaranteed the right to own businesses, they are also assured that the government will never interfere, allowing a free market system that in theory rewards the hardest working or the most innovative businessman.
Tocqueville wants his readers to understand that the absence of the aristocracy was the primary reason for the relative stability of the United States government and the primary reason for the upward economic mobility of its citizens. Lipset on the other hand wants his readers to understand that the absence of a dominant social class made it less likely and impractical to engage in disruptive revolutions.
Once the United States was able to experience a period of stability, the other cultural and economic factors chimed in to create a unique socio-political framework. Greenberg’s take on liberalism serve as an appropriate backdrop that helps explain how American citizens took advantage of the new system that came about after the American Revolution. Liberalism coupled with the lack of social hurdles created by the aristocracy and the absence of problems created by rebellions or revolutions paved the way for a unique political system that incidentally made America one of the most powerful nations in human history