… is from paragraph 53 of Thomas Babington Macaulay’s great 1830 essay “Southey’s Colloquies on Society“:
He [Southey] conceives that the business of the magistrate is not merely to see that the persons and property of the people are secure from attack, but that he ought to be a jack-of-all-trades, architect, engineer, schoolmaster, merchant, theologian, a Lady Bountiful in every parish, a Paul Pry in every house, spying, eavesdropping, relieving, admonishing, spending our money for us. His principle is, if we understand it rightly, that no man can do anything so well for himself as his rulers, be they who they may, can do it for him, and that a government approaches nearer and nearer to perfection in proportion as it interferes more and more with the habits and notions of individuals.
DBx: Robert Southey is long dead. The romantic notions that poet Southey (like countless others before him and, especially, after him) had about the state continue to live. Note that Southey’s notions – published by him in 1829 – are identical in all essentials to the notions embraced today by those who call themselves “Progressives.” Fancying themselves to be on the cutting-edge of reason and ethics, “Progressives” in fact – beneath their democratic veneer – are all about strong rulers having their way with supposedly ignorant and incompetent subjects.
By the way, Macaulay’s essay on Southey’s Colloquies is one of classical liberalism’s greatest masterpieces. Do read it.