Across the seas of history despotism has risen time and time again. Tyrants have ruled many lands in many times, more often than not to the great detriment of their peoples. But it is not the selfish and evil despot that does the greatest harm; it is the tyrant who enforces his rule for what he sees as the good of his people that does the longest lasting and most grievous harm, and is the one most to be feared.
The groundwork of mischief is this. A man fancies that he knows what is best for other men; that he is better acquainted with their sources of happiness than they can be; that he has more appropriate knowledge, and having more power, that he can turn his knowledge to good account on their behalf. He has formed his own estimate of good he is thoroughly persuaded that such and such a thing is good, and being good, he will compel others to receive and to adopt it, because it is good, and because he knows, from experience, it is so.
Yet despotism never takes a worse shape than when it comes in the guise of benevolence; and is never more dangerous than when it acts under the impression that it represents beneficence.
– Jeremy Bentham
Deontology; or, The Science of Morality
Benevolence may be nothing but the pale and impotent shadow of virtue when it does not lead to pragmatic beneficence, but this benevolence can also lead to the worst sort of tyranny when one man or an oligarchy decides that they know what is best for society.
One can look back and see that some of this happened under the Bush administration. A certain pragmatic despotism was enacted for the sake of what they thought was the greater good of America.
One must also look forward though. The Liberals are now in power and they have a long history of personally invasive legislation, all or most of which is meant to be for our own good. It would be best if America kept itself wary, lest these Liberals enact a “nanny state” who despotism will wear a kindly face, but whose iron fist will strike as hard as any other tyrant’s.