Public officers in the United States are commingled with the crowd of citizens; they have neither palaces, nor guards, nor ceremonial costumes. This simple exterior of the persons in authority is connected, not only with the peculiarities of the American character, but with the fundamental principles of that society. In the estimation of the demo-cracy, a government is not a benefit, but a necessary evil. A certain degree of power must be granted to public officers, for they would be of no use without it. But the outward show of authority, not indispensable to the conduct of affairs, is considered needlessly offensive to the public.

—Alexis de Tocqueville. Democracy in America, Vol. II, 1840.

In a free country, any pretensions a public servant holds should be cut down to size by the fierce resentment of public sentiment. However, if a public servant does his job quietly and diligently, with exaggerated respect for the rule of law, he should expect to earn the public’s esteem.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove