Real Threats For U.S. Democracy
Wednesday - June 14, 2006
A good friend and fellow grandfather with a longer term perspective recently pointed out to me that about the time our first 13 states adopted their new constitution in 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Empire some 2,000 years earlier:
“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 that 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, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by dictatorship.
“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 sequence:
1) From bondage to spiritual faith;
2) From spiritual faith to great courage;
3) From courage to liberty; 4) From liberty to abundance;
5) From abundance to complacency;
6) From complacency to apathy;
7) From apathy to dependence; 8) From dependence back to bondage ...”
Professor Joseph Olson of Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minn., recently expressed the belief that the United States is now somewhere between the “complacency and apathy” phase of Tyler’s definition of the inevitable course of democracy, with some 40 percent of the nation’s population already in the “governmental dependency” phase.
Even a cursory look at America’s history thus far gives credence to professor Tyler’s theory. Most of America’s earliest citizens came here to escape the “bondage” of a stifling monarchy which allowed little freedom, or the “bondage” of hopeless poverty. In early America, with few exceptions, “spiritual faith” was practiced freely, and led to reliance upon Divine Providence. The “courage” of our founding fathers was based, in great part, upon their confidence in God’s favor and - through a courageous revolution - that favor led to “liberty.” As has now been proven, not only in America but in many other countries, liberty does lead to “abundance.” And, sure enough, “complacency” is setting in.
However, I’m not as pessimistic as professors Tyler and Olson. Although fiscal policy and “Pork Barrel” spending remain problematic, I am convinced that for now the greater threat to America’s longevity is the emerging worldwide radical Islamic jihad. In this regard, I believe the events of 9-11-01 interrupted our further decline into complacency. Tragic though it was, it was a dramatic wakeup call for America. But as it recedes further into the past - aided by a mainstream media that is loath to remind us of the evil of our enemy - complacency remains at the door.
Complacency and denial go hand in hand. One must be in denial to remain complacent. As our war against Islamo-Fascism captures and holds more and more of our attention and the shortage of alternatives becomes more clear, denial is more difficult. And although a degree of “apathy” is endemic to any free society, it may be lower now than at any time in our recent history.
As far as “From apathy to dependence,” just as 9-11-01 was a wake-up call on “complacency,” Hurricane Katrina provided the wake-up call on “dependence” on government. Americans are far more wary of putting all their survival eggs into the government’s basket. The arrestment of both apathy and dependence is a positive “anti-return-to-bondage” change.
America is different. America is special. And although 20 years is but an historical mote, we’ve already succeeded in extending our allotted 200 years by 10 percent. Extending even further the longevity of the American democracy is not only in our own obvious best interest, but undoubtedly in the best interest of those in the world who either enjoy or are seeking the blessings of liberty.
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