This isn’t what you might call an eminent domain related item, but in light of last week’s events, it seems proper to share it with our readers. We recently came across the following statement attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler in his book The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic (1776):
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 the 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. These nations have progressed through this 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 apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage.”
So are our 200 years up? What do you think?
UPDATE: We finally got around to checking out this quote, and alas, it turns out to be too good to be true. Good old Snopes.com — the familiar source of debunking urban legends and such, informs us that “there is no record of The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic in the Library of Congress, which has several other titles by Tytler.” Snopes’ on-line search of Tytler’s work led it to conclude that “[i]n no case was text identified that was remotely similar to in words or intent to tyhe alleged Tytler quote.”
Still, if ol’ Tytler didn’t say it, perhaps he should have.