Thought for the Day: Beyond Democratic Despotism

John Adams Wettergreen (d. 1989), writing in 1988 with a startling prescience of our present time:

In 1970 I believed that Tocqueville’s soft despotism was the aim of the bureaucratizers. However today we cannot be so optimistic as was possible in 1970. Today’s bureaucratizers are not soft despots at all. The political use of criminal law, such as began during the Watergate scandals and has begun to be regularized during the Reagan administration, is characteristic of tyranny—not Tocqueville’s ‘new,’ ‘soft’ one, but a harsh one. . . To the carrot—spending unlimited by law—the legislature has now added the stick—the penalties of the criminal law.

What Wettergreen perceived in the shadows more than 30 years ago is now evident to most everyone with eyes to see.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.