IN "DEMOCRACY in America," published in 1833, Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the way Americans preferred voluntary association to government regulation. "The inhabitant of the United States," he wrote, "has only a defiant and restive regard . . .
. . . for social authority and he appeals to it . . . only when he cannot do without it."
Unlike Frenchmen, he continued, who instinctively looked to the state to provide economic and social order, Americans relied on their own efforts. "In the United States, they associate for the goals of public security, of commerce and industry, of morality and religion. There is nothing the human will despairs of attaining by the free action of the collective power of individuals."
. . . .
Tocqueville would not recognize America today. Indeed, so comletely has associational life collapsed, and so enormously has the state grown, that he would be forced to conclude that, at some point between 1833 and 2013, France conquered the United States.
. . . .
Instead of joining together to get things done, Americans have increasingly become dependent on Washington. . . .
. . . . [The] 2012 Federal Register . . . today runs 78,961 pages. Back in 1986 it was just 44,812 pages. In 1936, it was just 2,620.
. . . .
Right now there are 4,062 new regulations at various stages of implementation . . . .
. . . .
President Obama occasionally pays lip service to the idea of tax reform. But nothing actually gets done and the Internal Revenue Service code . . . just keeps growing -- it passed the nine-million word mark back in 2005 . . . -- meaning nearly 19% more verbiage than 10 years before. . . .
. . . .
Genius that he was, Tocqueville saw this transformation of America coming. Toward the end of "Democracy in America" he warned against the government [read government's] becoming "an immense tutelary power . . . absolute, detailed, regular . . . cover[ing] [society's] surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way."
Tocqueville also foresaw exactly how this regulatory state would suffocate the spirit of free enterprise: "It rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one's acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces [the] nation to nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd."
If that makes you bleat with frustration, there's still hope.
(Niall Ferguson, "The Regulated States of America," wsj.com, June 19, 2013)
The left thinks Big Government is community. Democrats said as much at the 2012 national convention. And our local newspaper, the lamentable Houston Chronicle, used the Oklahoma tornadoes as an excuse for this tribute to government. After giving its own version of lip service to the volunteers who saved lives and offered financial support, the editors got to the important stuff:
Here's another expression of community: government. Talk-show bloviators can sneer and critics can find ready targets, but government is a key tool available to us to accomplish what we can't accomplish for ourselves. It is an expression of our collective will, a mechanism to marshal our collective strength.
. . . . [A] natural disaster is a dramatic reminder that government at all levels -- citizens acting in concert -- deserves our attention, maintenance and support. Disdain is not enough.
Look it up. I'm tired of providing links to this miserable stuff.
When our president vowed to fundamentally transform America, Tocquevillian community self-reliance is one of the things he planned to transform, and he's succeeding. As a community organizer, his goal was to organize the community to suckle on government money, and he succeeded.
Talk-show bloviators are the true heirs of Tocqueville; the Houston Chronicle and other progressives instinctively look to the state to provide economic and social order, like the French.