Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that estate laws should be placed at the top of all politics because they have such an incredibly powerful influence on human affairs. An inheritance of not just hard assets but more critically of the “family spirit” is vital; a heritage of virtue and connection with the past, present and future. Democracy, he warned, tends to disassociate the past and the family from one’s identity. “You’re on your own” is the spirit of mass democracy, which creates a deep restlessness and constant fear that if one is not rising, one is falling.
Patrick J. Deneen points out that today’s conservative and liberal arguments are both based on a deep mistrust towards the past, which is believed to be a source of unchosen authority and bonds. Tocqueville foresaw that a society rooted in pure individualism would consist of constantly restless, anxious individuals with no firm bonds or deep commitments. A nation of radically individuated selves would have nowhere to turn but to a growingly tyrannical State. And this is not the result of collectivist philosophy (which had its intellectual ass kicked by Hayek in the 1940’s); no, this is an evil based on individualism and classic liberalism.
Our mortal enemy, the monstrosity of State tyranny, slowly grows in power as democracy evolves – Loosely quoting Tocqueville:
Imagine a crowd of equal men who spin around restlessly in order to gain small and vulgar pleasures, which fill their souls. Above these men arises and immense tutelary power that alone assures their enjoyment. It would resemble paternal power if it had the goal to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary, it seeks only to fix them irrevocably in childhood. It wants citizens to enjoy themselves and works for their happiness. It provides for their needs, conducts their affairs, facilitates their pleasures, settles their estates and divides their inheritances. How can it not remove entirely the trouble to think and the difficulty of living? This is how it makes the use of free will less useful and rarer every day; how it encloses the action of the will within a smaller space and little by little steals from each citizen even the use of himself.
Our defensive weapons against this looming despotic enemy (manifested today by an overreaching federal government and ridiculously biased media and academia) are aristocratic values that we protect, nourish and then pass down to our children and grandchildren. Your Estate Planning War Chest is bulwark of responsibility and accountability that comes from a sense of family rootedness. Among our inherited values are a strong respect for the law and a bequest to future generations of an honest education, a durable sense of agency, a healthy work ethic and enough financial assets to guard against mass selfishness, ignorance and lack of honor, that continue to feed a menacing State.