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de Tocqueville on the Nanny State

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RUSH: Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote the book. He passed away 149 years ago. He came to the United States, traveled around, wrote a book. Parts of this book -- well, all of it is amazing, but parts of this book are so prescient. I got this excerpt from the Power Line blog yesterday. He concludes in the book, Democracy in America, "with a warning of the kind of despotism to which democratic societies are usually and especially susceptible. He warns that the passion for equality will give rise to a certain kind of degradation in which citizens will surrender their freedom democratically to a tutelary power." Now, tutelary power, think protector, think guardian, think Nanny State. Here's the excerpt.

"Above these [citizens] an immense tutelary power is elevated, which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate. It is absolute, detailed, far-seeing, and mild. It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood; it likes citizens to enjoy themselves provided that they think only of enjoying themselves. It willingly works for their happiness; but it wants to be the unique agent and sole arbiter of that; it provides for their security, foresees and secures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances; can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living? Subjection in small affairs manifests itself every day and makes itself felt without distinction by all citizens. It does not make them desperate, but it constantly thwarts them and brings them to renounce the use of their wills. Thus little by little, it extinguishes their spirits and enervates their souls."

This is Alexis de Tocqueville, died 149 years ago, and when he writes -- it would be one thing if the Nanny State prepared people for adulthood and manhood, but it doesn't. It wants to keep us perpetually childlike. They, the government, want to be the unique agent and sole arbiter of happiness. They want to provide for our security, they foresee and secure our needs, they facilitate our pleasures, conduct our principal affairs, direct our industry, regulate our houses and homes, divide our inheritances. Can all this not take away from us entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living? By the way, it doesn't take government to make this happen. Oprah Winfrey has made it happen for many in her audience, the Oprahfication. We expect this on the left, but there are Republican candidates who are now running under this basic idea, life is too complicated, we're going to fix it for you, we're going to make you happy, we're going to make you dependent, and we're going to make everybody equal, and we're going to divide up your inheritance. And we're going to regulate your homes, as in, where you can and can't smoke, what you can and can't do with your land, what kind of car you can and can't drive, and we might even regulate the thermostat to tell you how cold and warm and hot and so forth you can and can't be.

Then we're going to tell you what kind of lightbulbs you can and can't use. We're doing all this for your pleasure. We're doing all of this for your own good. One of the tenets of his book here is to spot the pitfalls of democrat societies. Remember, we're not a democracy, we're a representative republic, and that also is being attacked as well. This will resonate with a lot of people, especially during primary time, because primary time, folks, is not really where elections are devoted to substance. They're devoted to perception and image and feel-good type things. When you get to the presidential election, contrary to what the libs like to say, contrary to what the Drive-Bys like to say, presidential elections are about issues. But will that change? Who knows. The point is, the antidote for this is conservatism, and there just isn't anybody on the front burner that is explaining and leading with these principles.

Instead, way too many people are trying to water them down and redefine them so as not to have to deal with them. It's hard. I've always said, conservatism is hard, conservatism does not baby people. It doesn't do what de Tocqueville was describing here. It doesn't keep you a perpetual child. Conservatism doesn't try to find a way to keep you happy. Conservatism is about making yourself happy and productive and fulfilled and making sure that there are as few obstacles in your path to all that as possible. But liberalism, Nanny Statism, why, it's easy. It's the most gutless choice you can make. Just tell everybody you care about them, understand that they can't survive against the odds and they're going to punish the people who do. We're going to try to make everybody equal, and we're going to make sure you're as happy as you can be, and we're going to make sure that you don't do any damage to the country, you don't do any damage to the planet, you don't do any damage to the neighborhood, you don't do any damage to your house. If you engage in fraudulent or mistaken practices that cost you econonically, don't worry about it, no harm, no foul, because you were too stupid to know what you were doing in the first place, so we will fix it and make you indentured servants of ours, constantly owing us in the government for whatever pleasure and happiness you find in life, and that will keep you dependent on it and will keep you looking everywhere but yourself for contentment, for happiness, for satisfaction, and for pleasure. That, my friends, is what he's talking about. That's what liberalism is, and it pains me to say, we have Republicans running on the same premise for the presidency in this campaign.

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