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  • Judge Jim Gray

Alexis de Tocqueville was Right!

In April of 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville set out for the United States from his native France to study the American penal system. So for nine months he traveled by steamboat, stagecoach, horse and canoe to numerous places in our country, all the while meeting and speaking with large numbers of people. Then he returned to France and wrote about what he had seen and learned about our penal system. But in 1835 he also published Democracy in America, which was required reading when I was in high school. (Was it for you?) In this work he had high praise for American democracy, saying that equality was the great and social idea of his era and that he thought the United States offered the most advanced example of equality in action. And de Tocqueville also wrote that he believed democracy was a great experiment, and that it would be successful until our elected officials discovered that they could buy people’s votes by using their own tax money. In my view that is exactly where we see ourselves today, and I deeply fear that this constitutes a major threat to our country. In other words, de Tocqueville was right!

What are the bases for my conclusion? Here are just three:

1. The federal government wants to forgive student loans for tens of millions of former students, which will cost taxpayers about $400 billion over the next 30 years. But ask yourself: why should students and their parents who controlled those educational costs and paid for them be required to pay the loans of those who were not so careful? Or why should people who were not able or chose not to go to college be required to pay the loans for those who did? This is a naked attempt by the government in power to buy the votes of those former students and their parents who receive the government largesse.

2. Reparations payments to descendants of slaves. The first problem with this idea is determining who would/should be qualified for such payments. Every Black person in America? Or, if not, what percentage descendant from an ancestor in slavery does one have to be? How about those whose slave descendants later married someone who was not such a descendant? Do descendants from the spouse also qualify? How about Blacks who came here from Haiti or elsewhere after slavery was ended? Or how about the huge controversy this will provide to our people here who will compete to show that “I am a greater victim than you are, so I should be paid more!”? That is truly not a healthy situation! And then what about the descendants of Native Americans, because we truly did some bad things to their ancestors? Same thing with many Chinese immigrants! (However, our paying reparations to the Japanese Americans who were themselves wrongly placed into internment camps during World War II was a different situation because those payments went directly to the people who were actually harmed.) But otherwise, what a nightmare we will inflict upon everyone in our country, all for the obvious purpose of buying more people’s votes!

3. Recently the rising price of gasoline here in California has truly worked an economic hardship upon many people. So the California government decided that some people who own cars should receive some compensation for the extra burdens. Okay, fine. So what should have happened? That is obvious: reduce or eliminate the 65 cents per gallon state tax on gasoline! That way the people who actually purchase the fuel will receive some economic help. But is that what the government did? Of course not. Instead it sent checks to many people who own cars in California, right before the primary election. (In fact, I received a check from the state for $500! And I would have been foolish not to have cashed it.) In fact, people who own electric vehicles also received checks! Another naked attempt to purchase people’s votes!

Of course, there are many more examples than these, and they come from both Republican and Democratic-led governments. But please recognize this threat to us for what it is! Victimization doesn’t work, and using tax money in these or any other times to purchase votes is a threat to the stabilization of our country. And then use your voices and votes to reject these courses of action! This article is a reprint of an original post published on Judge Jim Gray's site. The views expressed in it are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Libertarian Party of Orange County.

James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, and presently works as a private mediator and arbitrator for ADR Services, Inc. He was also the 2012 vice presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, and can be contacted at, or through his website at

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