America’s Culture of Busybodies

Interesting article from “The Lighthouse”.

A European visitor to the United States may be struck by the limitations on personal freedom so pervasive in the “land of the free”–freedoms taken for granted in much of the rest of the world. Why do so many Americans favor the use of coercive sanctions to restrict the personal choices of other Americans? For clues, look to American history, explains Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs in his incisive article, “Puritanism, Paternalism, and Power.”

The Puritans, who imposed a theocracy in early Massachusetts, exerted an immense and lasting influence on American society. The kindred spirits that followed gave us the Temperance Movement, the Social Purity Movement, the Social Hygiene Movement, the Comstock Act, the Mann Act, the Eighteenth Amendment, and the War on Drugs–not to mention a plethora of restrictions now pondered and imposed at the local level.

“Notwithstanding forms and temporal fluctuations, the penchant for acting as self-righteous busybodies has animated the bourgeoisie of this country ever since Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock in 1620,” Higgs writes. “Because this proclivity provides an irresistible opportunity for politicians to promote their own interests at public expense, one must expect that we Americans are doomed to an endless procession of costly, futile, and destructive crusades.”

“Puritanism, Paternalism, and Power,” by Robert Higgs (Whiskey and Gunpowder, 1/10/11)

Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society, by Robert Higgs

Depression, War, and Cold War: Challenging Myths of Conflict and Prosperity, by Robert Higgs

The Challenge of Liberty: Classical Liberalism Today, edited by Robert Higgs and Carl Close


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