Friday, August 26, 2016

Maybe we shouldn't be so fast to poo-poo history

Today by chance I ran across something I read years ago that has stuck in my mind ever since.   It's a quote attributed to 18th Century Scottish historian Alexander Tyler.   His position was that a democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government.

He went on to say 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 votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits.  After that, democracy will eventually collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.

That was in 1787!

Check this....he suggested there were eight steps to democracy:

1. From bondage to spiritual faith

2. From spiritual faith to great courage

3. From courage to liberty (revolution)

4. From liberty to abundance

5. From abundance to complacency

6. From complacency to apathy

7. From apathy to dependence

8. From dependence to bondage


It seems to me one of our mistakes, assuming you believe Mr. Tyler's hypothesis, was to vote "generous gifts" to only a portion of our population vs to everyone.  If we all benefit from something, such as a publicly funded education or an interstate highway system (do I dare even mention some sort of universally-available health care?), democracy can perhaps cope.  But when we give "gifts" to only a few, such as welfare to the poor at one extreme or tax breaks to the wealthy at the other, those in the middle, who don't qualify for either, become resentful.  That's when class warfare arises.  That's when the wheels come off.

 Just something to think about.



  1. The benefits for the poor is not proportional to the benefits to the wealthy. For the poor it is a matter of survival. For the wealthy it is a matter of getting more. Whomever controls the purse strings (fat cats in Congress, Citizens United, etc) controls the wealth. Those in the middle carry the burden. Like Warren Buffett said, he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.

    1. No argument Bill. I'm just saying when one class feels like they're paying in but not getting anything, or at least very much back, that's when the bickering starts. Then it becomes every man for himself.

  2. People in general seem to think we are smarter than people in the past. This guy may be correct and if so, we are headed to a disaster. Far Left thinkers scare me as much as far Right thinkers. What happened to middle ground?

  3. The United States is a very young country yet we have, through our Constitution, the oldest continual government on Earth. We've had disproportionate wealth in this country before, consider the captains of industry at the beginning of the twentieth century who were wealthier than European monarchs. We need a restored balance of wealth in this country, a level playing field so everyone can pursue their path to happiness and prosperity. Remove that hope--and if history is an example we can expect a revolution.

    1. Stephen
      I think history has changed, at least in what can be classified as a 'revolution'. We in the US do not have that option. We are too divided, politically, economically and racially that a revolution on the scale you are thinking is an impossibility. Not a chance.
      What you will see, your and my children and grandchildren is a lessening of our power, our influence. How that sits with us, what we do, is going to depend on what we do in the next decade. How we start to act on global warming, oil, what we do/oppose/intervene in the middle east and the rest of the world.
      We are in decline. We've seen to that with the drop in our educational standards, our top captialist system that seeks the most profit wherever it can do manufacturing, etc. We've become a consumer, and we have a lot of kidsl out there asking if we want fries with that, instead of working a computer writing code, or putting the finish on furniture.
      We've outlived the system we've adopted in the last 50 years. My best suggestion is to find your kids a good place to land, and live.

  4. I'd like to respectfully disagree with Alexander Tyler. Just because it's never done before doesn't mean it can't be done.

    I do think there will be rocky times ahead, but we've had rocky times in the past, too.

  5. Some good thinking here. Thanks for your comments.

  6. America is is on it's way to total collapse.