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From Freedom to Despotism

From Freedom to Despotism

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Excerpt from From Freedom to Despotism: A Rational Prediction and Forewarning

It is now more than fifteen years since I arrived at a similar conclusion to that of Professor Sumner regarding the comparatively limited prospective duration of the American Republic. But my conclusion was based on very different, and, as I believe, more positive, substantial and adequate grounds than those given by him, namely, on the transformation of the national character, and the creation of demands for arbitrary methods of govern ment, that are resulting from changes that are already under way and will soon become much more pronounced, in the national economic conditions of life.

In noting, in a general survey of history, the conditions under which the different forms of government have been maintained, I was struck with the broad fact that the eras that have been famed for political freedom, were equally marked as eras of economic development, growth and expansion. And on tracing out this correlation as exhibited in the histories of particular nations, I found it to be a general and unvarying law of political history that free or constitutional systems of government have always had as their basis of origin and maintainance a state of active economic development, and have only endured so long as such development continued; and that under economic fixity, following completion of development, government has always assumed an autocratic or despotic form.

The term despotism, it should be understood, is used, in the title and throughout the book, not in an opprobrious sense, but as a general term to denote any form of accepted and necessary absolutism or autocracy, with little or no constitutional limitations on the arbitrary powers of the individual ruler.

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