from a letter to the editor in The Wall Street Journal, Tocqueville and ‘Is This the Best We Can Do?’

Responding to Joseph Epstein’s “These Five Are the Best We Can Do?” (op-ed, April 6): Alexis de Tocqueville answered Mr. Epstein’s question some 180 years ago in his seminal work “Democracy in America.” “In the United States . . . the pursuit of wealth generally diverts men of great talents and strong passions from the pursuit of [political] power; and it frequently happens that a man does not undertake to direct the fortunes of the state until he has shown himself incompetent to conduct his own. The vast number of very ordinary men who occupy public stations is quite as attributable to these causes as to the bad choice of democracy. In the United States I am not sure that the people would choose men of superior abilities even if they wished to be elected; but it is certain that candidates of this description do not come forward.”

Only those elected through the current failed system have the power to change it, but having come to power through that very system, they are the least likely to do so.

Alan Kelly

Kansas City, Mo.