The following is an excerpt from an interesting article by Bruce Thornton: “2012: Crisis and Opportunity Await” (the emphasis is mine).
[We] have to acknowledge that our problems reflect not just a bad president, but our own failures and betrayal of our defining political principles. I cannot do a better job of explaining these than political philosopher Paul Rahe does in his magisterial book “Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift,” based on the remarkable prescience of Alexis de Tocqueville:
“In consequence of our abandonment of our religious and moral heritage, of our rejection of the spirit of individual responsibility and the principles of limited government, over our own people today . . . there ‘is elevated an immense, tutelary power,’ whose aim is to take ‘sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate.’
In America . . . this power is ‘absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident, and gentle.’ It works willingly for our ‘happiness,’ but it exacts a price, for ‘it wishes to be the only agent and the sole arbiter of that happiness.’ It provides for our security, it foresees and supplies our needs, it guides us in our principal affairs, it directs our industry, it regulates our testaments, it divides our inheritances, and it covers the ‘surface’ of our society ‘with a network of petty regulations — complicated, minute, and uniform.’. . .
Only on the rarest of occasions ‘does it force one to act, but constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies.’
And step by step, relentlessly, with every passing day, as we gradually succumb to the spirit of irresponsibility and self-indulgence, this power grows in influence and scope, making us more and more like ‘a herd of timid and industrial animals, of which the government is the shepherd.’”
This year the opportunity we must grasp is to shake off these bad habits of passive dependency accumulated under Republicans and Democrats alike, and return to the vision of the Founders: a republic of free and autonomous citizens who take responsibility for their own fates and managing their lives, and reject the “soft despotism” of the federal leviathan.