Freedom Day

by Don Boudreaux on July 3, 2010

in Books, History, Nanny State, Regulation

Here’s a letter to the Washington Times:

Claire Gillen’s review of Leo Damrosch’s Tocqueville’s Discovery of America is superb (“When the aristocrat met democracy,” July 3).

With government now bossing us about as never before in personal matters – “Buy health insurance!” “‘Contribute’ to a government-run pension scheme!” “Eat less salt!” “Don’t smoke pot!” “Click It or Ticket!” “You may not use a credit card that Uncle Sam believes charges you too much!” – Tocqueville’s relevance remains intense.  This astute Frenchman asked “How can a populace unaccustomed to freedom in small concerns learn to use it temperately in great affairs?”*

Great question.  The nanny state might never become brutal, but – unless people learn to cherish freedom and accept responsibility – it is destined to become increasingly intrusive, controlling, and debilitating.  Vibrant freedom will be displaced by bleak conformity, officiously enforced.  And the spirit of ’76 will finally have died.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

* Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. by Henry Reeve (Alfred A. Knopf, 1980 [1835 & 1840], p. 95.

And in celebration of tomorrow, I share this second quotation from Tocqueville; it’s from page 70 of the above edition of Democracy in America: “The Revolution of the United States was the result of a mature and reflecting preference for freedom and not of a vague or ill-defined craving for independence.”

Happy Freedom Day, my fellow Americans!

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