Legal Quote of the Week: Alexis De Tocqueville

Yesterday was Alexis De Tocqueville’s birthday. The following is from a 1962 article by Robert Schuettinger, a graduate student under Prof. F. A. Hayek of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, on the Foundation for Economic Education website:

"[The power of government] 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. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power . . . does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, until each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and hard-working animals, of which the government is the shepherd."
– Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume II (1840)
Tyranny of Mediocrity
Tocqueville saw that the real threat to a democratic society in our age would not be what the Tories dreaded, anarchy, nor would it be the absolute dictatorship feared by the Old Liberals; rather, it would be the mild tyranny of mediocrity, a standardization of mind and spirit, a gray uniformity enforced by a central government in the name of "humanity" and "social justice."