Danger of Administrative Despotism

The Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville warned in his book, Democracy in America, written in the 1830s, of the dangers of “administrative despotism.” The overbearing state “would degrade men rather than torment them,” keep them in “perpetual childhood” because it “hinders, restrains, enervates, stifles, and stultifies so much that in the end [the] nation is no more than a flock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as its shepherd.”

More on de Tocqueville’s View of Despotism

Hat tip, Paul Miller of University of Texas in NYT, who adds: “Self-government is hard. Some want to be relieved of the burden of governing themselves. Like the people in Dostoevsky’s tale of “The Grand Inquisitor,” some Americans are ready to say, “Make us your slaves, but feed us!”

In my travels, I’ve certainly observed foreign governments that seem invested in controlling or keeping their citizens in perpetual childhood by hindering, restraining, and stifling their individual autonomy, political freedom and economic independence.

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