The Problem With Democracy

politicians as kingsThis article from FEE on ending the Welfare State through private action is a good read. Here’s an excerpt:

in February the Associated Press (AP) reported that in spite of the 1996 welfare reform, which has reduced the number
of people on the welfare rolls,“Nearly one in six people rely on some form of public assistance, a larger share [of the population] than at any time since the government started measuring two decades ago.”

I have no hope that our  Welfare State will ever be reduced to manageable proportions let alone ended. As Benjamin Franklin said when he agreed to our current Constitution:

“In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”

MOre to the point, he is also widely credited with saying, “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the Republic,” but I suspect that is a paraphrase of this statement:

“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 candidate promising the most from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.
Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, 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 dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.

The provenance of this statement is in some doubt. It is most commonly attributed to an Alexander Tytler or Tyler, depending on your source. The earliest usage Loren Collins could find is in a 1959 New York Times Book Review Queries and Answers column, where somebody else had written in asking for the source. So clearly, it predates 1959, but how far we don’t know.

Whoever said it, I think we can safely say that the people have learned that we can vote ourselves largesse from the public treasury, and nearly all of us do it in one fashion or another. Surely we can all see why this does not bode well for the former Republic of America?

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One Comment

  1. 6 arrows
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Do you have a link for the FEE article you excerpted, or did I miss it?

    I had never heard of FEE until last week, when I came across one of their articles, entitled, “Are We Rome?”. Great article that I made required reading for the day for my teen, and goes along well with what you said and quoted above.

    http://www.fee.org/files/doclib/20130620_FEEAreWeRomeCover1V5.pdf

    “Why did Rome decline and fall? Rome collapsed because of a
    fundamental change in ideas on the part of the Roman people—
    ideas which relate primarily to personal responsibility and the
    source of personal income. In the early days of greatness, Romans
    regarded themselves as their chief source of income. By that I
    mean each individual looked to himself—what he could acquire
    voluntarily in the marketplace—as the source of his livelihood.
    Rome’s decline began when the people discovered another source
    of income: the political process—the State. In short, it was a
    character issue.

    Rome rose to greatness on the pillars of strong personal character.
    It foundered when its people sacrificed character for less noble
    things like power and the false, temporary “security” of a handout.

    When Romans abandoned self-responsibility and self-reliance,
    and began to vote themselves benefits, to use government to rob
    Peter and pay Paul, to put their hands into other people’s pockets,
    to envy and covet the
    productive and their
    wealth, they turned down
    a fateful, destructive path.”

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