Democracy?

Jun 24, 2004

I promised myself I didn't want this blog to mention anything political, but I just want to save this quote somewhere I can always find it again :) An interesting note from 1770:

Alexander Fraser Tyler, in Cycle of Democracy said:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over lousy fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average of the world's great civilizations before they decline has been 200 years. These nations have progressed in this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage.

The Auto-tagger Search work begun

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  • Jun 27, 2004 - 22:48

    # Comment by Jim D

    Gravatar

    Where is America now? Apathy to dependency? Sounds about right.

    "The American People can rely (depend) on us, and our Homeland Security Office to protect them from the evil Terrorists! And to keep the price of gas low at the pumps by making war on all the oil bearing countries! Vote Republican!"

    OK, George!

  • Jul 01, 2004 - 11:53

    # Comment by 3rdParty

    And that quote by "Tyler" is also most likely false, or at least not something that can be validated. Here is what Snopes.com has to say about the quote, however:

    "The quote from "Alexander Tyler" is very likely fictitious. His name was actually "Lord Woodhouselee, Alexander Fraser Tytler," and he was a Scottish historian/professor who wrote several books in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

    However, there is no record of The Fall of the Athenian Republic or The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic in the Library of Congress, which has several other titles by Tytler. This quote has also been cited as being from Tytler's Universal History or from his Elements of General History, Ancient and Modern, books that do exist. These books seem the most likely source of the quote, as they contain extensive discussions of the political systems in historic civilizations, including Athens. Universal History was published after, and based upon, Elements of General History, which was a collection of Professor Tytler's lecture notes.

    Tytler's book, Universal history, from the creation of the world to the beginning of the eighteenth century, is available for viewing and searching on-line: http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=moa;idno=ABW5010

    The complete text was searched for each of the following phrases:

    Athenian Republic
    democracy
    generous gifts
    public treasury
    loose fiscal
    fiscal
    bondage
    200 years
    two hundred years
    spiritual faith

    In no case was text identified that was remotely similar in words or intent to the alleged Tytler quote."

  • Jul 01, 2004 - 22:03

    # Comment by GreyWyvern

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    Thanks for reminding me why I didn't want to post anything political on this blog.

    I'll make sure to think about this the next time I get the urge. :/

  • Jul 13, 2004 - 20:31

    # Comment by KB

    http://www.bartleby.com/73/425.html

    Looks like Snopes might have it wrong. I have not actually read the book but, ...

    NUMBER: 425
    AUTHOR: Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747–1813)
    QUOTATION: It is not, perhaps, unreasonable to conclude, that a pure and perfect democracy is a thing not attainable by man, constituted as he is of contending elements of vice and virtue, and ever mainly influenced by the predominant principle of self-interest. It may, indeed, be confidently asserted, that there never was that government called a republic, which was not ultimately ruled by a single will, and, therefore, (however bold may seem the paradox,) virtually and substantially a monarchy.
    ATTRIBUTION: ALEXANDER FRASER TYTLER, LORD WOODHOUSELEE, University History, vol. 1, book 2, chapter 6, p. 216 (1838).
    SUBJECTS: Democracy

  • Aug 23, 2004 - 10:06

    # Comment by Annie Oglypuss

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    If voters are permitted knowledge of potential revelations contained within Area 51, then true democracy can be restored to the phrase "...government for the people..", which until then is just another empty slogan designed to mask the activities of a select few.

  • Sep 07, 2004 - 11:39

    # Comment by Ricker

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    Perhaps this quote from nearly two centuries later will help validate the Tytler quote:
    "The release of initiative and enterprise made possible by self-government ultimately generates disintegrating forces from within. Again and again, after freedom brings opportunity and some degree of plenty, the competent become selfish, luxury loving and complacent; the incompetent and unfortunate grow envious and covetous; and all three groups turn aside from the hard road of freedom to worship the golden calf of economic security. The historical cycle seems to be: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependency; and from dependency back to bondage once more." Arnold Toynbee (1889 - 1975)