ISI Book’s book on Bertrand de Jouvenel (part of its excellent Library of Modern Thinkers collection) is coming out soon. George Carey has given it a good review in the forthcoming issue of The American Conservative (no link available). Excerpt:
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[In the first chapter of On Power], Jouvenel introduces the startling notion, later amplified, that the modern democratic state is potentially the most dangerous regime that has ever existed. He dramatically points out that democracies now possess powers that the most despotic kings of the 17th century could only dream about. Whereas kings frequently had to go begging for money and men to support their ventures, democratic regimes possess virtually unlimited powers of taxation as well as the capacity to raise enormous armies through conscription. . .
How did democracy contribute to [an alarming increase of state power in the twentieth century]? The answer relates to the fact that in democracies, unlike monarchical or aristocratic regimes, there is no “he” or “they” commanding “us.” As a result, in democracies the skepticism, suspicion, and even resistance that often accompany the exercise of power by the one or few over the many are absent. What is more, since the “general will” rules and all presumably share in government, unlimited force can now be safely lodged with the state.