“Truthiness” (coined by Stephen Colbert), a variant of “Truthy”, is used as satire to describe false claims that sound true. The right wing of the political landscape is full of truthy claims; until I retired I accepted many of these truthy claims because, well, they sounded true. Since retiring I have had the time and desire to read and check facts. Repeatedly I find the political right’s talking points to be factually challenged. I often don’t fact check the political left’s talking points because my default position is that the left is wrong. In finding the right’s claims false I feel terribly let down, I feel that I have been used. Now adrift, I have gone independent, a wonderful feeling.
There is one truthy quote argued so strongly that most have accepted it. I certainly did, until I decided to fact check and think.
“A democracy can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.” A quote used by future President Reagan (March 5th, 1964), later repeated by many Republican leaders and editorial writers.
First, let’s look at the authenticity of this quote.
This is quote is attributed to Alexis de Toacqueville, or sometimes cited to Benjamin Disraeli, or sometimes Alexander Hamilton, or sometimes Thomas Jefferson, or sometimes Benjamin Franklin, or was it Elmer T. Peterson, a writer for the Daily Oklahoman in 1951, who claimed Alexander Tyler (A Scottish Law professor) as the author (the quote appears in no work by Professor Tyler and he never said it in any public speech), you may see a pattern here. This quote cannot be traced to anyone, while being cited as wisdom of the ages by everyone.
If the quote is made-up is there truth in the sentiment? I need to fill in the thought and complete the proposition. This is part of the Why Democracies Fail (WDF) narrative, which includes the theory of a Fatal Sequence (FS), and held as a fundamental truth by travelers on the right side of the political river. As part of the WDF belief it doesn’t matter if Disraeli had this insight centuries ago, it is a reality in modern America. America is going to fail because poor people, and single mothers, and the unemployed, and food stamp recipients are all greedily raiding the public treasury. America is following the Fatal Sequence to Bondage.
For your enlightenment, I present The Fatal Sequence (FS).
Bondage to Spiritual Faith
Spiritual Faith to Courage
Courage to Liberty
Liberty to Abundance
Abundance to Selfishness
Selfishness to Apathy
Apathy to Dependency
Dependency to Bondage
This is not a circle, when a nation arrives at the final stage of Bondage, the condition is permanent. The unshakable belief is that America has reached the “Apathy to Dependency” stage and our only salvation rest in ending the Dependency.
Now we can investigate the truth of the sentiment. Do democracies fail by falling into the Fatal Sequence trap? There is no shortage of failed democracies/republics to examine and see if the proposed Fatal Sequence is applicable.
The Greek City State of Athens – Failed due to political corruption and greed by the ruling elites.
The Roman Republic – Failed due to political corruption and greed by the ruling elites.
The German Weimar Republic – Failed due to worldwide financial collapse (the great depression), which allowed demagoguery by a political opportunist (A. Hitler).
Uganda (Borders on Lake Victoria in Africa) – Military coup by Ida Amin.
We cannot find any historical example of a failed democracy/republic that follows the Fatal Sequence. Not even a lose criterion can shoe horn any nation into the Fatal Sequence. Will any current example of a democratic failure fit? Is the Fatal Sequence operable in nations such as Egypt, Iraqi, or Greece?
Egypt – Elected government failed to rule democratically, failure is still an open question.
Iraqi – I know most Americans are trying to forget this one after a long decade and trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. We are asking why democracies fail, and this is an example. Plenty of spiritual faith (the Sunni and Shiites), so maybe this is an example in a very early state Fatal Sequence.
Greece – Government has not failed. Certainly a poster child for the right, but the financial problems are rooted in international banking, the destitute pensioners are still destitute, as such they didn’t take the money.
This deep rooted, 60 year old Republican theory has been undated and refined to explain how the poor, single mothers, the unemployed, food stamp claimants, immigrants and pensioners are plundering the public largess. The theory claims these people are trapped in a state of Dependency, one step from eternal Bondage, sacrificing their liberty while stealing the wages of honest, hard working patriots. A theory with the gravitas of some (unknown) serious and dignified philosopher.
This theory is a massive intellectual failure, a theory without value or merit, and a theory without any predictive ability, a theory that starts with a lie and ends with a scam. History holds a different lesson; democracies fail due to greed and corruption. The real lesson of history purposes a valid theory, the economic theory of “Rent Seeking”. Rent Seeking is when elites use their political power to obtain economic gain without reciprocating benefits back to society. Rent Seeking is purely parasitic, creating no new economic wealth, capturing government and capitalism solely for personal gain. This is how democracies die.