Tocqueville, a much wiser and more prudent thinker than the Encyclopédistes, knew that such abstract political moralizing could only lead to political terror.
Tocqueville’s themes illuminate last week’s school massacre and others like it: The weakened family, the crumbling of other forms of authority, the purposelessness of a life that resembles a video game (“mental dust” he calls the rapidly changing appearances of modernity), and the promise of relief through a benevolent bureaucracy that imposes centralized uniform rules. A comfortable, sheep-like existence seems to be democratic life’s principal promise—occasionally disrupted by outbursts of religious enthusiasms. This is the “schoolmaster despotism” that gently oppresses us. But this opportunity tempts the baser instincts of human nature. When men and women behave like sheep, someone brutal in spirit or strength will take sport in slaughtering them.
What to do? My modest proposal: Note that over the years a disproportionate number of these mass slaughters are carried out by Asian-Americans—two out of the last 13 this year. Asians—they have better educations and incomes, get into super-selective schools, and disproportionately slaughter innocents. Should Asians (or at least Koreans) be banned from owning guns? Of course that wouldn’t stop all such atrocities, but as President Obama said, “no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.” But why not try? It makes more sense than most of what will be proposed over the coming weeks.