Puritanism, Paternalism, and Power

Filed in BP, deflation, euro, lead, o, Progressive, target, ubs, US Dollar by on January 10, 2011 0 Comments

“Live and let live” would appear to be a simple, sensible guide to social life, but obviously many Americans reject this creed with a vengeance. They find toleration so unpleasant that they support the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of individuals whose personal behavior they regard as offensive. Why do so many Americans favor the use of coercive sanctions to enforce repression? Perhaps the answer lies in our history… Puritanism Politicians and other patriotic posturers like to declare that the Europeans came to America seeking freedom. The claim is at best a half-truth. In the colonial era, most Europeans arrived in North America bound in some form of indentured servitude, many of them children or convicts put out to work. Disregarding such servants, one finds that the free colonists sought mainly to improve their economic well-being. To be sure, some of them, including the early arrivals in Massachusetts, were fleeing religious oppression, but the Pilgrim Fathers had absolutely no intention of establishing a community in which individuals would be free to behave according to the dictates of their own consciences. The Puritans had already seen the light, and, by God, they intended to use all necessary means to ensure that everybody comply with Puritan standards. Far from free, their “City upon a Hill” was a hard-handed theocracy. For them, pleasure seemed the devil’s snare. Their vision of the good life was austere, and they looked askance on the possibility that others might embrace hedonism. In H.L. Mencken’s famous characterization, Puritanism was “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” Moreover, if the Puritans suspected that someone might be having fun, they had no compunction about using government coercion…

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Puritanism, Paternalism, and Power

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