Harvey Mansfield is now 89 and a political philosophy professor at Harvard, considered a leading authority on Tocqueville. He wrote a 60 page introduction to Democracy in America in the 2000 Chicago Press edition. The intro alone is worth the price of the book.

From Persuasion, The Conservative Case for Philosophical Liberalism, Yascha Mounk interviews Harvey Mansfield.

Liberal democracy means democracy with liberties. That means rights which are guaranteed against majority interference. The problem in a republic is not so much minority exploitation, as majority exploitation. “Faction” was the word which is used in the Federalist, or “tyranny of the majority,” in Tocqueville. I think those who best understand democracy fear its tendency to uproarious, overbearing majorities. That’s the main problem, and the reason it’s the main problem is that a majority tyranny looks like a majority justice, or even a majority view of the common good. Those two things need to be distinguished and made operable, and you make them operable with the usual devices of constitutionalism: separation of powers, bicameral legislature, federalism. Plus the Bill of Rights, which are amendments to the Constitution. Don’t forget the Constitution itself. All those things are, I think, still valuable and we shouldn’t endanger them, much less throw them away.


A liberal democracy is a limited democracy.  Without that immensely important modifier, democracy is ripe for tyranny.