Quotation: Of Democracies and Nanny States - De Tocqueville

Mark Hubbard's picture
Submitted by Mark Hubbard on Wed, 2010-07-21 21:11

Nothing of mine in this post. I came across the following in the comments field of one of the threads on coordinationproblem.org. It sums up the problems of democracy and our Nanny State so well, and it was written in 1889. Reproducing the comment from Aidan in its entirety from here: http://www.coordinationproblem...

"I got this quote from Vincent Ostrom's the Political Theory of a Compound Republic (Ostrom & Allen, 2008, p. 150)): the warning De Tocqueville gave in his conclusions in Democracy in America. He asked: ‘What sort of despotism democratic nations have to fear’?:

‘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 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... It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate... The will of men is not shattered, but softened, bent and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly retrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better that a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd’ (De Tocqueville, 1889, pp. 290-291)."


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I think De Tocqueville was

Mark Hubbard's picture

I think De Tocqueville was largely right, but not wholly. I think the State we have in NZ (and the West) is not so gentle anymore, that the bureaucrats are brutal, and are becoming more and more so - ask surgeons Penny and Hooper if they're not feeling a bit brutilised at the moment, or for that matter, Allan Hubbard. But the biggest element he has missed is how the Welfare State ends up breeding the violence that we now see so strong in our aimless and parasitic youth, and that violence is visited upon the taxpayer, and used as a blatant blackmail by the politicians to continue the whole evil welfare ethic on; that is, 'we have to keep paying these little brutes, otherwise they'll invade our homes to take what they think is theirs' by right'.

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