Soft despotism and perpetual childhood

Soft despotism and perpetual childhood

Kathy Shaidle links to a blog discussing certain Katrina victims and how much responsibility they bear for their suffering by not taking reasonable precautions, but instead relying on government aid. That other blogger includes a quote I wanted to reproduce because it shows a prescient observation of the dangers of American democracy.

Alexis de Tocqueville, the Frenchman who toured the US and then authored the book “Democracy in America” in 1831 very accurately predicted the dangers of “soft despotism”:

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

What more accurate description of “Nanny Government” liberalism could we have? And it’s not just the Democrats who have been infected by this political disease. How much has the government grown under the watch of a Republican presidency and Congress in the past six years? Unfortunately the tendency toward “soft despotism” and “perpetual childhood” is bipartisan.

Is it a fatal flaw inherent in the American democratic republican form of government? Is there a remedy? I’m no political scientist so I’ll leave it for others to come up with answers.

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Domenico Bettinelli
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