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Michael Ledeen on Tocqueville on Us

At his Pajamas blog, Faster Please!, Michael has written the best diagnosis of our current straits that you will find anyplace. It is from a couple of weeks ago, and I’m remiss in not drawing attention to it earlier.  But in some ways that’s better, because a lot has happened in a couple of weeks and yet the post is just as incisive now as it was when he wrote it — as I suspect it will be for many tomorrows. A sample (though it’s all priceless):

The tyranny [Tocqueville] foresees for us does not have much in common with the vicious dictatorships of the last century, or with contemporary North Korea, Iran, or Saudi Arabia.  He apologizes for lacking the proper words with which to define it.  He hesitates to call it either tyranny or despotism, because it does not rule by terror or oppression.  There are no secret police, no concentration camps, and no torture.  “The nature of despotic power in democratic ages is not to be fierce or cruel, but minute and meddling.”  The vision and even the language anticipate Orwell’s 1984, or Huxley’s Brave New World. Tocqueville describes the new tyranny as “an immense and tutelary power,” and its task is to watch over us all, and regulate every aspect of our lives.

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, to rise above the crowd.

We will not be bludgeoned into submission; we will be seduced.  He foresees the collapse of American democracy as the end result of two parallel developments that ultimately render us meekly subservient to an enlarged bureaucratic power: the corruption of our character, and the emergence of a vast welfare state that manages all the details of our lives…. 

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