Friday, January 01, 2010

Your Resolutions are Being Made for You

This is the second story I have seen that hints that unusually many of the new laws that take effect today are nagging, niggling nanny-state rules designed to protect us from ourselves and make us feel safer from mishaps from whatever source. Obviously, not all of these rules are a bad idea (texting while driving seems obviously insane to me) but it seems that the whole mass is getting constantly thicker, heavier, more suffocating. I keep thinking of that famous passage in which Tocqueville imagines a possible nightmare future for democracy in America:

Thus, after taking each individual by turns in its powerful hands and kneading him as it likes, the sovereign extends its arms over society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd; it does not break wills but it softens them, bends them, and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one's acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which government is the shepherd. .  .  .

I have always believed that this sort of regulated, mild, and peaceful servitude, whose picture I have just painted, could be combined better than one imagines with some of the external forms of freedom, and that it would not be impossible for it to be established in the very shadow of the sovereignty of the people.

Happy New Year everybody!
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