Friday, July 04, 2008

Our Fragile Democracy

This came to my inbox, and I've cleaned it up as best I could from Snopes, etc.


About the time our original thirteen states adopted their new constitution in 1787, Lord Woodhouselee Alexander Tytler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh , had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years earlier:
  • A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.
  • The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:
    1. from bondage to spiritual faith;
    2. from spiritual faith to great courage;
    3. from courage to liberty;
    4. from liberty to abundance;
    5. from abundance to complacency;
    6. from complacency to apathy;
    7. from apathy to dependence;
    8. from dependence back into bondage
Here are some interesting facts concerning the 2000 Presidential election:

Number of States won by: Democrats: 20 Republicans: 30

Square miles of land won by: Democrats: 580,000 Republicans: 2,427,000

Population of counties won by: Democrats: 127 million Republicans: 143 million

Murder rate per 100,000 residents in counties won by: Democrats: 6.5 Republicans: 4.1 (national avg. is 5.5)

In aggregate, the map of the territory Republican won was mostly the land owned by the taxpaying citizens of this country. Democrat territory mostly encompassed urban zones (high concentrations of citizens living in government-owned tenements and living off various forms of government welfare, or divorced from manufacturing and agriculture.)

With others, I think the United States is now somewhere between the 'complacency and apathy' phase of Tytler's definition of democracy, with some forty percent of the nation's population already having reached the 'governmental dependency' phase.


Doug Hagler said...

What I find really ironic is that for about twenty years now, the Democrats have been the party of fiscal responsibility, balancing the budget when they can get the votes, while the Republicans have been the Tax Cut Fairy.

I've always found it interesting that our federal budget ballooned massively under Reagan and now under Bush II, leaping from millions to billions and then from billions to trillions. So it looks like, at the moment, that according to Tyler, the Republicans are going to destroy our democracy long before your imaginary army of government-dependent people do.

(I mean really, 40%? Do you just make up a number that sounds good? Because that's insane.)

I think a fallacy is to think that things like wars of choice aren't "generous gifts from the public treasury." We'd never have things like the Iraq war if we had to pay for them ourselves, send a militia or something.

I also wouldn't fool myself into thinking of Welfare as a "generous gift". Welfare queens living in state-sponsored luxury that idiots like Rush Limbaugh are so concerned about are about as threatening as Trolls and Goblins, and about as common.

Kevin said...

I'm pretty sure Cicero made the observation about the public treasury. And technically, we live in a republic, not a democracy. Still, your remarks are well taken. Ours is a country in rapid decline. It's hearthbreaking.

Chris said...


I'll agree: tax and spend makes more sense than don't tax and still spend. While no one has outdone LBJ, I think that Bush's desire to be all things to all people has set us up for a hardship in the coming decade.

The 40% comes more from those who rely on the two biggest holes in our sinking ship: Social Security and Medicaid. I didn't even throw in the Americans who ask the government to oversee their responsibility of educating their children.

Jodie said...

Either way it would seem that dictatorship is not far off.

Bush gave the thought a spin. He called himself "the decider".

(That would be the English word for the Latin "dictator")

One of the biggest chores for the next president and congress will be to undue all the legislation that over the last eight years have set us up for a "legal" transition to dictatorship.

Not sure that will happen regardless of who wins, but I am pretty sure it's not high on McCain's to do list.

Chris said...


I don't see it high on either the GOP or Democratic priorities. Ron Paul was a brief moment of hope for reigning in government, but that went down in flames. There are alternatives, though.

Doug Hagler said...


Interesting. You're against public education? I can't agree, but I guess it makes sense in the context of other things you've said.

Would you be willing to disband the military as well? That would be a huge way to reign in government.

Chris said...

When we lived in a world where national conflicts couldn't erupt into global ones, I'd be all for disbanding the military and going back to a local militia model. Unfortunately, that is not our present reality.

As for public education: I'm against the nationalizing of it. It's best handled locally. There's nothing under our constitution that demands a department of education. There's also nothing stopping local citizens from organizing for the specialized instruction of their young (or old).