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John Zmirak: The perils of centralization

Such a weak, decentralized government was possible because Americans of his era controlled themselves according to firmly held, inherited moral codes, and willingly submitted themselves to the influence and authority of non-state institutions, ranging from the family and the church to the force of public opinion and the verdict of “polite society” in their local communities. These institutions of “civil society,” a mighty force in Tocqueville’s day, have weakened for many reasons — including the growth of government, which competes with them for influence and uses its legal power to hobble their freedom of action. An ugly synergy results, as the state points to social pathologies that arise when individuals act without moral compass, and the government steps forward to take those citizens firmly by the hand and give them the guidance they once might have gotten from churches and families.

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