ALEXANDER FRASER TYTLER was a professor of Ancient History at the University of Edinburgh. He specialized in ancient Roman and Greek culture. He died in 1813. He was known for his insight into big picture issues. Watching the growing influence of the young nation, the United States, he made this prophecy.
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the Public Treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with a result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy and is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. The nations have progressed through the following sequence:
- From bondage to spiritual faith;
- from spiritual 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 to bondage.”
It looks to me like Tytler was a prophet. What do you think?
 Quoted by Murray, Charles (2012-01-31). Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (Kindle Locations 2165-2166). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
As Thomas Sowell says in, “Is Democracy Viable”, We should not assume that our own freedom and democratic form of government can be taken for granted. Those who created this country did not.
As the Constitution of the United States was being written, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin what he and the other writers were creating. He replied, “A republic, madam — if you can keep it.” Generations later, Abraham Lincoln also posed the question whether “government of the people, by the people and for the people” is one that “can long endure.”
Just as there are nations that have not yet developed the preconditions for freedom and democracy, so there are some people within a nation who have not. America’s advance toward universal suffrage took place slowly and in stages.
Too many people, looking back today, see that slow progress as just being biased against some people.
But putting the fate of a nation in the hands of the illiterate masses of the past, many with no conception of the complexities of government, might have meant risking the same fate of “one man, one vote — one time.”
Jim. Great comment couldn’t agree more. Well stated.