Mark Shea notes the following footprints in the sands of time:
When I was a kid, the State used language that assumed the citizen was a human being worthy of respect. "Buckle up for safety." "Keep America Beautiful".
Now the State uses a bullying, contemptuous tone appropriate for a bureaucrat who assumes "the Masses" are so much concrete to be shoveled around, so many cattle to be prodded, so many sheep to be startled in this or that direction by technicians whose job is to do crowd control. "Click it or Ticket," "Drive Hammered, Get Nailed," "Slow Down or Pay Up," and "Buckle Up, IT’S THE LAW" It is the grammar of a state that no longer believes in a free people, but in a crowd of human animals, unworthy of respect, who need to kicked because they are too stupid to be appealed to as rational beings.
The Germans has a word for it: a "Besserwisser" (Those Who Know Better). It's a hard role not to take when you can see how other people can better order their lives, and they persistently do not do so!
to ask "What's the matter with Kansas?"
Oh, well. The Modern Ages were the Age of the State. They began with medieval-style kings as primus inter pares
counterweighted by a separate institution, the Church, to which people could appeal and which claimed that even princes were rulers "under God," that is, subject to a higher law. IT'S THE LAW!! could be countered by BUT IT'S AN UNJUST LAW!!! A.D. Lindsay, in The Modern Democratic State,
"It was perhaps equally important that the existence and prestige of the Church prevented society from being totalitarian, prevented the omnicompetent state, and preserved liberty in the only way that liberty can be preserved, by maintaining in society an organization which could stand up against the state."
I am minded of de Tocqueville's observation about the liberties of Americans being ensured by the little battalions of everyday life. Between the Man and the State stood church, trade or guild, family, charities, fraternal organizations, and other free associations. The Americans cleverly divided even the State into state, and general governments and the general government into three separate arms to prevent the concentration of the imperium in too few hands.
But as the Modern Ages progressed (and that use of "progress" is itself an innovation of the Modern Ages) kings became monarchs (i.e., ruling alone), then absolute monarchs. But to become absolute they had to break the other pole of society: the Church was divided and nationalized as "established churches" whose bishops were appointed by the throne. After a time, the Bourgeoisie wearied of the Monarchs and at Naseby and the Bastille (and less obviously at Appomattox) the aristocracy was overthrown. Some countries, like England, kept their aristocrats as decorative accessories; but others, like France, cut off their heads.