Robert Higgs explains a significant change in American ideology that has taken place during the past 120 years. He uses a recent speech by President Obama in which the President warns, "if we don’t work even harder than we did in 2008, then we’re going to have a government that tells the American people, ‘you are on your own.'"
How horrible the prospect! On your own to pay for your own health care; on your own to pay for your own college expenses; on your own to pay for a lawsuit against a corporation that has harmed you unlawfully. How can anyone with an ounce of humanity in his body expect people to take such self-responsibility? The next thing you know, those callous, reactionary Republicans—you know, the ones who ran up the size, scope, and power of government consistently under every Republican president since Chester Arthur—will demand that people take care of their own children and aged parents! Where will it end?
No politician seriously seeking the presidency today would dare to say what Cleveland—an exceptionally courageous and honest politician even in his day—said in the late nineteenth century. American politcos have learned that the people have come to crave government paternalism, indeed, that they pant for it and demand it at every turn. Obama is not the brightest light, yet he understands how to get elected, and in that quest he is pandering to the same personal irresponsibility and desire to prey on one’s fellows that have been the hallmarks American politics from the Progressive Era to the present.
If we hypostatize or anthropomorphize the notion of ideology, we may say that ideologies have might over men. Might is the faculty or power of directing actions. As a rule one says only of a man or of groups of men that they are mighty. Then the definition of might is: might is the power to direct other people's actions. He who is mighty, owes his might to an ideology. Only ideologies can convey to a man the power to influence other people's choices and conduct. One can become a leader only if one is supported by an ideology which makes other people tractable and accommodating. Might is thus not a physical and tangible thing, but a moral and spiritual phenomenon. A king's might rests upon the recognition of the monarchical ideology on the part of his subjects (pp. 188-89).