The Corner

Slouching Toward Despotism

This week on Uncommon Knowledge, from Toqueville to Obama — and from a republic characterized by individual liberty to the vast, yawning maw of the welfare state. Our guest, Dr. Paul A. Rahe, professor of history and political science at Hillsdale College, and the author, most recently, of Soft Despotism.

Soft despotism comes, Tocqueville thinks, when very gradually within a liberal democratic polity the government offers a helping hand to people.  It’s always welcome.  Businessmen who argue against government interference in the economy are always willing to have government help in their particular area of the economy.  And very gradually, very slowly, unobtrusively, without anyone’s quite noticing what’s going on, the government ends up helping in a thousand and one ways and there are always strings attached.

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Peter Robinson — Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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