Tytler (or Tyler) Quote; Heading for Dictatorship?

I keep running across this quote:
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 benefits from the public treasury, with the 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.

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 complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage.


This is generally attributed to Sir Alex Fraser Tytler, but it has also been attributed to Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (and many others) I've even seen a rather lengthy list of titles and a reference location for Sir Tytler (Scottish jurist and historian. Professor of Universal History at Edinburgh University in the late 18th Century. From the 1801 Collection of his lectures) that seems to lend credence to the subject.

It's a quote that I like and feel sympathetic to. But...

http://www.lorencollins.net/tytler.html proposes that:

The truth is that despite their frequent use, the author(s) of the
above quotes are unknown. With regard to the first quoted paragraph, the Library of Congress' Respectfully Quoted writes, "Attributed to ALEXANDER FRASER TYTLER, LORD WOODHOUSELEE. Unverified." The quote, however, appears in no published work of Tytler's. And with regard to the second, the same book says "Author unknown. Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli. Unverified."

Yet despite this factual uncertainty, these quotes are not only frequently attributed to Tytler, but just as frequently employ his antiquity as a means of enhancing their reliability. I myself was misled for years before being informed of their "unverified" status.

Has anyone else ever researched the quote? (Snopes has a good piece on the subject as well, hats off to a fellow dancarlin.com forum user for that one) I haven't, other than to dig far enough to find the above. There is no reference for a collection of lectures that I've ever seen. They could be out of print, but they should merit a reference somewhere; if indeed, Tytler is famous for saying the quote that is attributed to him.

Not even the Library of Congress can find the source for the quote, or even the true author. While many in the liberty movement feel akin to the sentiments in the quote, we do ourselves a disservice when we repeat it without knowing the true author; or on what basis we should accept his observations.

True, as was mentioned in a Texas Public Policy Foundation newsletter recently;

While there may be disagreement on the actual author of these words, there ought to be little debate about the pernicious effects of a growing government that numbs its people to the loss of freedom and liberty as it gradually increases dependence. One need not look far to see the many instances where individuals have resigned themselves and relinquished control over important and highly personal decisions. Education is a primary example. Health care may soon be the next.
Yet dependence on government—whether conscious or unconscious—did not occur overnight. Instead, it took years of gradual growth in government’s size and scope. After all, many are unwilling to seriously protest a single small tax increase, forgetting that in the aggregate those increases become real money. Any single regulation may be passable, but it is the force of hundreds of accumulated regulations that begin to cripple an industry and even an economy. Or it is years of expectation that government provides certain services that penetrates people’s minds and softens consideration on the appropriate role of government.
Growing government becomes a powerful weapon against freedom and liberty, as people not only lose sight of those principles, but ultimately back government’s quest to expand its reach.

It's pretty easy to see why the quote is repeated; the observation could be a truth to be feared, if not merely a myth that seems to be playing out for real right before our eyes.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Ad Hominems, Spam and Advertisements will be mercilessly deleted. All other comments are eagerly anticipated.