In order to deal with new political and economic conditions, Wilson called for a government of unlimited powers unfettered by the old constraints required by an unchanging human nature. The 1776 Declaration of Independence would give way to a “new declaration of independence” that would enable 20th-century Americans to contend with special interests, political machines, and big business.
But in fact Wilson’s new declaration of independence was a declaration of dependency. It established the basis for a phenomenon foreseen eight decades earlier by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America. He warned that democracy is susceptible to a certain form of tyranny: the rule of a “benevolent” government, catering to the public’s needs and whims in exchange for their freedom, which creates a servile people dependent on the largesse of government, happily acquiescing in the loss of liberty as long as the government fulfills their material desires. He called this tendency “soft despotism.”