Resuming where we left off, Tocqueville draws a distinction between tyranny and arbitrary power. America tends towards a system of arbitrary power, for the details of public officers "and the privileges that they are to enjoy are rarely defined beforehand." Moreover, "In general, the American functionaries are far more independent within the sphere that is prescribed to them than the French civil officers."
This is truer now than when he wrote this, as the Federal bureaucracy has expanded immeasurably after the Civil War. To give a concrete example, the "Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act" contains numerous instances in which such-and-such a committee may decide how regulation is to proceed. The specifics are worked out after the majority has passed the bill.
Tocqueville was rightfully concerned about the possibility of liberty being infringed based on the omnipotence of majorities.
Any group of people is bound to possess conflicting opinions on matters related to the way in which they are to be governed. However, in the American Republic, once a majority has decided something, it becomes difficult, not merely to alter the legislation, but to have alternative opinions heard. To offer a position in dissension with that of the majority is to risk one's respectability.
Hence: "I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America." Once the majority has decided, there is no power to which an American may appeal by way of disagreement. Thus "the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them." To an extent, the Internet may have seemed to altered this, but only superficially. Barriers of respectability remain firmly in place. This is problematic because it makes it unlikely that the government shall consider changing course--let alone actually altering it--when once it has gone astray.
Tocqueville offers us an amusing quip: "If America has not as yet had any great writers, the reason is given in these facts; there can be no literary genius without freedom of opinion, and freedom of opinion does not exist in America." No doubt this shocked the Americans who read his book, who concluded, en masses, that on this point at least, the Frenchman was dead wrong.
The tyranny of the majority can be blamed for the paucity of great men: "I attribute the small number of distinguished men in political life to the ever increasing despotism of the majority in the United States." This is a change from the early days of the Republic, in which many great men were to be found. After the founding, in the event that someone were to offer distinguishable views, he would be marginalized as a radical. Voting incessantly with one's party--or with the whole of Congress--provides no sure way to distinguish oneself. Indeed, it is worth noting that recent American presidents--not counting Obama, who served one term in the Senate--have emerged from State politics, this being, evidently, the only area in which potential presidents may--attempt to--differentiate themselves from the herd.
Finally, rather than expecting that the Republic would expire from weakness, Tocqueville expected the opposite to occur: "[I]t is almost always by the abuse of its force and the misemployment of its resources that it becomes a failure. Anarchy is almost always produced by its tyranny or its mistakes, but not by its want of strength." This is a very interesting observation. The "conservative" line has long been that the Constitution guarantees a limited government, by virtue of the restrictions it places on government. Yet Tocqueville correctly points out that, regardless of what the piece of paper says, the system has no sure guard against tyranny by way of the majority.