Alexis de Tocqueville has long been a favorite of mine. He foresaw the current struggle over the power of the Supreme Court, as pointed out ably by Michael Ledeen:
[The dispute is about] Power, because the president and his people think that, since they are smarter and better than the rest of us, anyone who tries to limit their power is bad, and has to be brought into line. Thus, the tough words of warning to any justice contemplating voting against Obamacare.
[The dispute is about] Freedom, because the accumulation of power in the hands of the executive branch comes at our expense, bit by bit and law by law, precisely as Alexis de Tocqueville feared.
As he said, “The nature of despotic power in democratic ages is not to be fierce or cruel, but minute and meddling.” Tocqueville described the new tyranny as “an immense and tutelary power,” and its task is to watch over us all, and 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.
We will not be bludgeoned into submission; we will be seduced. He foresees the collapse of American democracy as the end result of two parallel developments that ultimately render us meekly subservient to an enlarged bureaucratic power: the corruption of our character, and the emergence of a vast welfare state that manages all the details of our lives. His words are precisely the ones that best describe our current crisis:
That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?
That’s what it’s about. The president and his followers want to be able to labor on our behalf, and to make all of our important decisions. Many of them, like their European counterparts, firmly believe this is the best way to achieve the common good. Others are driven by disgust with contemporary America and the American people, and see themselves acting to save the world from our own worst instincts and impulses. Still others are elitists who despise the common people, who are so plainly unworthy of respect. Whatever the motivation, the “solution” is to restrict the freedom of Americans in order that the superior beings who currently control the executive branch can dictate policy.