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The Atlantic In Paris: Dispatch #6

I have a great many things to say to you. They are, in no particular order, the following:

1.) There is something very libertarian about this city. Yesterday I watched a dude put his kid, who could not have been older than four, on a motorcycle. I get the feeling that Mike Bloomberg would not do well here.

2.) Really enjoying Le Contrat Social. This, for instance, ties back to our earlier conversations:

Let us add that there is no Government so subject to civil war and internal strife as the Democratic or popular kind, because there is none that tends so strongly and continually to change form, nor that requires more vigilance and courage in order to be maintained in its own. It is above all in this constitution that the Citizen must arm himself with force and constancy, and each day of his life say in his innermost heart what a virtuous Palatine* used to say in the Polish Diet: Malo periculosam libertatem quem quietum servitium. If there were a people of Gods, it would govern itself Democratically. So perfect a Government is not suitable for men.

One thing I see in Rousseau, and that I saw in Tocqueville, was an affectionate skepticism of democracy. It is not a tyrant's skepticism but a realist's. The basic frame seems to be, "Democracy would be awesome if this works, and it is worth trying, but you should understand all the inherent risks." When did that affectionate skepticism disappear from our popular discussion? When did "make the world safe for democracy" become an applause line? Is this a post-World War II development? Rousseau and Tocqueville would have laughed at "making the world safe for democracy," right?

3.) If you accept Rousseau's skepticism, then it must be true that some non-democratic governments were "good" for their people. Is that correct?

4.) I watched France vs. Croatia last night. OK, I am in for le fut. How do you follow football? I really like watching the dudes move without the ball when they are close to the goal.

4.) Tintin is awesome. I want to take back the completed works.

5.) Also "C'est Pour Rire." Guy I'm staying with left a cabinet of white wine. He hates the stuff. Told us to finish the stuff. On our second bottle watching this joint. Good times.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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