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Walter Lippmann, Democracy, and the Scope of Modern Government

Below is a letter that I sent several months ago to the New York Times.  I regard the quotation (in the letter) from Walter Lippmann to convey one of the most overlooked yet important ideas of modern times.

I share David Brooks’s fear and loathing of President Obama’s thuggish methods of persuading business executives to ‘cooperate’ with his obnoxious intrusions into the economy (“And the Angels Rejoice,” May 26). As I read Mr. Brooks’s spirited lament, I recalled this wise warning from Walter Lippmann (found on pages 105-106 of Lippmann’s 1937 book The Good Society):

“Though it is disguised by the illusion that a bureaucracy accountable to a majority of voters, and susceptible to the pressure of organized minorities, is not exercising compulsion, it is evident that the more varied and comprehensive the regulation becomes, the more the state becomes a despotic power as against the individual.  For the fragment of control over the government which he exercises through his vote is in no effective sense proportionate to the authority exercised over him by the government.“*

Donald J. Boudreaux

* emphasis added