On the occasion of de Tocqueville’s 200th birthday in 2005 many articles speculated about what the country he so loved would look like then to his sophisticated eye.

Alexis de Tocqueville was a French aristocrat who came to this country to write a study of the American prison system, which he did, and he became so enamored of its social and political life that he also wrote one of the best books ever written about our country, Democracy in America, and I would highly recommend the 2000 translation by H. C. Mansfield and D. Winthrop.

One aspect of out country now that would trouble him, and it is one Michael Novak wrote about in 2005, is the change in the association or nonprofit organization, as a voluntary speaking out of the people for their particular interests, to the state sponsored organizations, properly called nongovernmental organizations or NGO’s.

These organizations work from the smallest local government to the largest international one and while appearing to be a voluntary association are often staffed, directed and funded by the particular government that wishes to see its interests represented; and at the very best represent an insidious perversion of the very purpose the voluntary association was originally envisioned, to provide the individual an organized platform to speak out and protect oneself against the organized power of the state.