Scaring Us Into the Grip of Tyrants

(Don Boudreaux)

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


I wish that I didn’t share Daniel Henninger’s pessimism about the course of American politics (“Biden Abandons Normalcy,” March 18). But all that he writes rings regrettably true.

As Mr. Henninger accurately observes, today’s progressives repeatedly prophesy existential “crises” to cow the populace into compliance with their illiberal, centralizing schemes. That the public is now so easily cowed by such fear-mongering is doubly depressing.

The sadly forgotten 16th-century French classical liberal Étienne de La Boétie put his finger on the problem – a problem that we Americans once prided ourselves for having escaped but which now seems to have us firmly in its gruesome grip:

It is pitiful to review the list of devices that early despots used to establish their tyranny; to discover how many little tricks they employed, always finding the populace conveniently gullible, readily caught in the net as soon as it was spread.*

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

* Étienne de La Boétie, The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude (Harry Kurz, trans., 1975 [originally posthumously published in 1577]), page 72.

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