Skip to comments.Almost Prophetic: de Tocqueville and Hayek on Democratic Despotism
Posted on 04/03/2010 1:04:08 PM PDT by Thane_Banquo
I have begun reading Hayek's The Road to Serfdom for the first time, and in his foreward I came across a quote from de Tocqueville's Democracy in American, followed by a comment from Hayek. What these two brilliant men wrote is so perfectly correlated with what has happened in America and is happening today that I consider it nearly prophetic.
First, the quote from de Tocqueville:
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?
Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things; it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits..
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. 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. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained 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 than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.
--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, "Chapter VI: What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear."
F.A. Hayek on de Tocqueville's quote:
What Tocqueville did not consider was how long such a government would remain in the hands of benevolent despots when it would be so much more easy for any group of ruffians to keep itself indefinitely in power by disregarding all the traditional decencies of political life.
--F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, Foreword
Thane_Banquo on Hayek's quote:
That's the Chicago Way!
(/sophomoric and crass interlude)
Haha! How could I not see that coming?
Who knew she could write?””
Huh? Sorry...I got caught in the headlights.
A magnificent pair of quotes.
That’s OK...we all need “interludes”.
Selma, Selma, Selma...why could you not marry me???
My favorite Hayek quote is, “ . . . the most important change which extensive government control produces is a psychological change, an alteration of the character of the people. This means, among other things, that even a strong tradition of political liberty is no safeguard if the danger is precisely that new institutions and policies will gradually undermine and destroy that spirit.”
(/thread drift — fun for sure)
To be fair:
“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?”
a) EXACTLY describe the world desired by soros, ayers (and ilk) and their puppet, the TOTUS-reader
b) should scare the biden out of every freedom-loving American.
Love that quote. I don’t have my copy of the Road to Serfdom in front of me so I will paraphrase mine: Without economic freedom there is no political freedom.
This is the problem with liberalism. It assumes that the enormous mechanisms of governmental power that they wish to set up will remain in the hands of benevolent men. Liberalism regards the free behavior of men with suspicion, but government, as long as there is no religious component to it, gets a pass.
Don’t forget the comicbook version:
Bread and Circuses is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the Plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader - the barbarians enter Rome.... Mine was a lovely world till the parasites took over.
Bump for later
De Toqueville is “Brave New World” to Hayek’s “1984”.
* * * * * *
From wiki (comparisons of George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”:
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.
Also Christopher Hitchens on the two books:
We dwell in a present-tense culture that somehow, significantly, decided to employ the telling expression “You’re history” as a choice reprobation or insult, and thus elected to speak forgotten volumes about itself. By that standard, the forbidding dystopia of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four already belongs, both as a text and as a date, with Ur and Mycenae, while the hedonist nihilism of Huxley still beckons toward a painless, amusement-sodden, and stress-free consensus. Orwell’s was a house of horrors. He seemed to strain credulity because he posited a regime that would go to any lengths to own and possess history, to rewrite and construct it, and to inculcate it by means of coercion. Whereas Huxley ... rightly foresaw that any such regime could break but could not bend. In 1988, four years after 1984, the Soviet Union scrapped its official history curriculum and announced that a newly authorized version was somewhere in the works. This was the precise moment when the regime conceded its own extinction. For true blissed-out and vacant servitude, though, you need an otherwise sophisticated society where no serious history is taught.
Hayek could have titled Chapter X, “Why the Worst Get on Top,” with Hussein and Rhambo in mind.
So dead on to what we see know...
But are we eternal children to even allow ourselves to be in the control of even the most benevolent men... that would still create a crippled and stunted populace totally beholden to(and controlled by) their benefactors... a bird in a gilded caged is still caged
life under soft fascism
bookmark for tomorrow readin’
Can libertarianism and conservatism co-exist? What happens when (or more like “if”) the libertarian founded Tea Party movement (now backed by conservatives) win in the upcoming elections and throw the economic socialist bums out? Will the secular/atheist/agnostic libertarians abide by the Christian conservative social policies, or expect the Conservative movement to follow the Libertarian Party’s “If it feels good do it” social platform?
God plays no role in libertarianism, therefore it can’t be successful over a long term basis.
The reality seem to be we have both vision growing in to one... just depend on the perspective one views it
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