More than a year ago, less than a month after the Obama Inauguration, I wrote about the threat of an emerging American tyranny, quoting Tocqueville’s nightmare scenario of a slow seduction of the American people who would willingly abandon freedom to a soft dictatorship that would appear to be democratic. I was right about Obama’s intentions, but wrong about the reaction of the American people, which is central to the battle in which we are engaged.
Tocqueville foresaw a slow death of freedom. He feared that the power of the central government would gradually expand, meddling in every area of our lives, and he was afraid that we would welcome it, and even convince ourselves that we controlled it.
Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated…
The tyranny he foresaw 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. “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 anticipated Orwell’s 1984, or Huxley’s Brave New World. Tocqueville described the new tyranny as “an immense and tutelary power,” and its task is to 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.