The Public Interest

Constitutional government: the soul of modern democracy

Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr.

Winter 1987

ALTHOUGH modern democracy is unhappy with the word “soul,” it has one nonetheless; and its soul is not healthy today. The disease is widely known as “dependeney,” the popular disposition, denounced mainly by conservarives, to depend on others, especially government, to secure one’s well-being. This disease extends beyond welfare dependency in the narrow sense to include all who depend on their entitlements in a society that no longer requires or encourages (and often does not permit) free choice. The liberal version of dependency, heard a generation ago, was “apathy” toward social problems; and the radical or neo-Marxist term has been “false consciousness” distracting the people from revolution.

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