Tocqueville On The Effects Of Socialism On Liberty

A third and final trait, one which, in my eyes, best describes socialists of all schools and shades, is a profound opposition to personal liberty and scorn for individual reason, a complete contempt for the individual. They unceasingly attempt to mutilate, to curtail, to obstruct personal freedom in any and all ways. They hold that the State must not only act as the director of society, but must further be master of each man, and not only master, but keeper and trainer. For fear of allowing him to err, the State must place itself forever by his side, above him, around him, better to guide him, to maintain him, in a word, to confine him. They call, in fact, for the forfeiture, to a greater or less degree, of human liberty, to the point where, were I to attempt to sum up what socialism is, I would say that it was simply a new system of serfdom.

—Alexis de Tocqueville, Speech in the Constituent Assembly (1848) (HT: Samuel Gregg)

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
    Author Image

    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


2 comments

  1. ….”They hold that the State (church) must not only act as the director of society, but must further be master of each man, and not only master, but keeper and trainer. For fear of allowing him to err, the State (church) must place itself forever by his side, above him, around him, better to guide him, to maintain him, in a word, to confine him”….

    It’s interesting that some people in the church believe this is the type of power that the church should have as well. I’m a big believer that the biblical model of letting the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit is a better route and it’s also why I am a two kingdoms theology guy rather than leaning in a theonomy/ theocratic direction. It’s been my experience that those with the theonomy leaning lead with a neo-nomianism tilt as they also attempt to bind fellow Christians consciences where God has made them free. An over realized ecclesiology isn’t any more helpful than an over powerful government. Moving in a kind of protestant sacerdotalism train of thought that the church is somehow morally and spiritually above the fray it seems to me is to deny total depravity and the seriousness of sin.

  2. The more things change the more they stay the same. It was good warning for 2008 as it was for 1848.

Comments are closed.