I have been looking back over Alexis de Tocqueville’s unfinished masterpiece, The Old Regime and the French Revolution. It is full of piquant observations, for example this from the end of the preface: “a man’s admiration of absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him.” How much contempt do you suppose emanates from the apparatchiks who inhabit the D.C. swamp and control our lives? How slavish is their devotion to the unfettered prerogatives of the idol they serve, the state?
That dialectic between adulation of the sources of power and contempt for those subject to it may in one sense be perennial, a sentiment captured by the old Latin tag: … “it is part of human nature to hate those whom you have injured.” …
Describing the habit of “governmental paternalism,” Tocqueville notes that “Almost all the rulers who have tried to destroy freedom have at first attempted to preserve its forms.” …
I think that is more or less where we are now. You still hear people talk about the importance of individual liberty, the rule of law, limited government, and so on, but increasingly, I believe, the slogans are shot through with a brittle cynicism.
One sign of that decadence is the resignation that now greets every fresh assault on the impartiality upon which the rule of law, and hence liberty, depend. In a recent column for the Daily Signal, Larry Elder asks “Why hasn’t Jussie Smollett been charged with perjury?”
It’s a good question, and it’s one everyone knows the answer to. Smollett belongs to a protected class (actually, he belongs to several protected classes). As a black, gay, celebrity …, Smollett is more or less untouchable. True, he was just convicted of 5 out 6 felony counts for staging his own assault, but many commentators are speculating that he will serve no jail time for committing what can only be described as a racially motivated hate crime.
So now we have increasingly selective enforcement of the law by unelected bureaucrats. But isn’t that sort of thing pretty much a textbook definition of tyranny?