By Marilyn Barnewall
In 1787, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh said about the fall of the Athenian republic (about 300 B.C.), “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 votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury. The result is that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.”
I always check quotes for accuracy. This particular quote is carried on several reputable Web pages, but I also contacted the University of Edinburgh librarian for verification.
According to the Internet stories, the Scottish history professor is named Alexander Tyler. According to the University of Edinburgh (where he taught), his name is Alexander Tytler. So, if any of my ambitious readers wish to check the source, you’ll have to look under Tyler on the Net… or contact Edinburgh University as I did.
The year 1787 was the time our forefathers and the thirteen states they represented writer and adopted our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Perhaps they should have listened more closely to Professor Tytler.
The good professor further said “The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through”… the following cycles:
“From bondage to spiritual faith. From spiritual faith to great courage. From courage to liberty. From liberty to abundance. From abundance to complacency. From complacency to apathy. From apathy to dependence. From dependence back into bondage.”
This guy knew what he was talking about. Do the cycles sound as familiar to you as they do to me?
No wonder so many people believe we are in the final days. The Athenians and Romans probably felt the same way as they watched their traditional civilizations crumble around them. We may well be in the final days. But are they the final days before the second coming of Christ? Or, are they just the final days of a 200 year old democracy?
There is no doubt that most of the Americans who settled our nation were running from servitude to various European royal houses. From the records kept of the abiding faith of our founding fathers, there is no doubt they moved from bondage to spiritual faith and from there to great courage. Those without courage do not attack the greatest army of the 18th century.
There is also no doubt we progressed from their courage to liberty and from that liberty came abundance.
According to a new book titled “Understanding Poverty in America” by Robert F. Rector and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., even our poor are, for the most part, far better off than average citizens in other countries. They point out that:
“Forty-six percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
“Seventy-six percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
“Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
“The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe.
“Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car, 30 percent own two or more cars.
“Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
“Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 63 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
“Seventy-three percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher.”
Being poor is no fun. I’ve been there and done that. The above statistics are not quoted to in any way demean the poor. They are used to simply say we in America have abundance. It has raised the standard of living of our poor above that of average, not poor, people in the rest of the developed, modernized world.
“Understanding Poverty in America” runs numerous comparisons between average Europeans and poor Americans. Believe me, you’re better off being poor in America than average in Europe.
It doesn’t take much imagination to identify the abundance to complacency cycle, does it? It was the complacency of citizens that trusted their government too much – the 1940s through 60s generations — that allowed it to grow to serve itself rather than the people who pay for it.
We were blind to the dangers. We trusted too much people who sought power for its own sake – in growing, giant corporations as well as government. We didn’t understand the “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” concept. What else can be said? We erred in our misplaced faith.
The number of people who do not vote or just do not want to be bothered with the process of choosing candidates who serve the people rather than their party is evidence of the move from complacency to apathy. Too, people become apathetic when they experience changes they do not want imposed by a government they cannot control.
Do average Americans want illegal immigrants legalized? No. Did average Americans want NAFTA? No. There are a lot of “but we don’t want it” programs on the list.
We only need to look at government-controlled programs and the number of people dependent upon them — Social Security, welfare, Medicare, national health care, a government school system — to know we are dependent on government for our daily existence.
I do not demean the programs, only the dependence we have on them. As Tytler predicted we would in our 227 year old democracy, we have gone from apathy to dependency.
If Professor Tytler’s thesis is correct, the next stage for America is a return to bondage.
Some people think we are there, already. In fact, we have gone far enough down the road to government dependency, it seems to me the only way to save ourselves from Tytler’s predicted destiny is go back to square one: to spiritual faith and courage.