Above [the multitude in a democracy] stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to watch over their fate. [...] For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness: it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances — what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range, and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. [...]It's not known whether Nietzsche read Democracy in America, but his reflections on the 'Last Man', written four decades later, sound a similar note.
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned them at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform [...] The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. *
Alas! There cometh the time when man will no longer give birth to any star. Alas! There cometh the time of the most despicable man, who can no longer despise himself.While Nietzsche's version seems more poetic, and perhaps more profound, de Tocqueville's is the more politically astute. Unlike Nietzsche, who talks of "no shepherd", de Tocqueville recognises that a society in which passivity, compliance, and homogeneity have become norms provides enormous scope for some to have power over others.
Lo! I show you THE LAST MAN.
"What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?" — so asketh the last man and blinketh.
The earth hath then become small, and on it there hoppeth the last man who maketh everything small. His species is ineradicable like that of the ground-flea; the last man liveth longest.
"We have discovered happiness" — say the last men, and blink thereby. [...]
No shepherd, and one herd! Every one wanteth the same; every one is equal: he who hath other sentiments goeth voluntarily into the madhouse.
"Formerly all the world was insane," — say the subtlest of them, and blink thereby. They are clever and know all that hath happened: so there is no end to their raillery.
(from Thus Spoke Zarathustra, transl. Thomas Common)
* Part 4, Chapter 6, transl. Henry Reeve. Via George H. Smith & Marilyn Moore, Individualism.