Tocqueville, Self-Interest and the Government

The problem, to be blunt, is government. You have a choice, in Tocqueville’s view, between a government that protects freedom and a government that provides material security. You cannot have both. And if you choose comfortable slavery you cannot have community.

Tocqueville explained this phenomenon in his discussion of “soft” or democratic despotism. By doing too much for the people, benevolent centralized governments sap local communities’ lifeblood, their very reason for existence. By destroying the practical need for voluntary community, the welfare state destroys community itself, for people no longer feel the need to interact and bond with one another. In so doing, government also destroys good character, for it is only in the families, churches, and the various associations of local community life that men learn genuinely to care for their fellows.

Lots of food for thought, here.

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