Paternalism’s Foe: Grover Cleveland


Politicians, pundits, and scholars have wrestled over a central question throughout American political and constitutional history:  What role should the government have in the lives of ordinary citizens?

For Jeffersonian Conservatives, such as Grover Cleveland, the government has no business involving itself in areas outside its limited, constitutional role, and should never take a position as a “custodian;” the people should be free to pursue their own dreams without government interference, to rise as high and as far as their God-given talent, abilities, and determination will carry them.  Success or failure depends on the individual.

washigton dc capitol building

Some liberals on the other side of the political spectrum believe the government should play a vital role in the lives of the people, from cradle to grave. They believe the lowly masses cannot take care of themselves.  For Democrats, government must step in and take up the role of caretaker.  As Nancy Pelosi said in 2011:  “I view my work in politics as an extension of my role as a mom.”[i]  This progressive viewpoint is known as government paternalism, and has been defined as “a policy or practice of treating or governing people in a fatherly manner, especially by providing for their needs without giving them rights or responsibilities.”[ii] Continue reading

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