Ben Kinchlow’s latest column at the Worldnetdaily follows a tried-and-false formula: Offer up some fake quotations, then use them as the premise of an absurd argument. In this case, it’s that absurd old idea that democracy will cease to exist when people start voting themselves largesse from the government:
A little over two centuries ago, a historian named Alexander Tyler made a chilling prediction that could easily be applied to America today. While he spoke of the ancient Athenians, the principles apply to modern-day America.
He wrote, “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: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage.”
A most chilling observation in this “prophecy” is that civilizations rise and fall in 200-year cycles. Based upon this observation, could America already be three decades beyond the deadline? Could it be that the signs of “dependency and bondage” that Tyler spoke of have manifested and, though unnoticed, are all around us today?
America was not founded as a democracy but as a republic, yet it operates on democratic principles. Here was Tyler’s raison d’être for the decline and fall of a democracy; “A democracy,” he observed, “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 a dictatorship.”
Except he didn’t “observe” this at all because he never said either of those things. The first quote is from a 1943 speech by H. W. Prentis. The second is from an op-ed column in an Oklahoma newspaper by Elmer T. Peterson in 1951 and has since been attributed to everyone from Jefferson to Tocqueville. He doesn’t even get the man’s name correct, it was Tytler, not Tyler.
Also note that absurd “democracy not a republic” cliche that is so popular among wingnuts. They are not opposites, for crying out loud, one is a form of the other. And Tytler, incidentally, objected to either form about equally. Kinchlow would know this if he’d actually read him rather than getting his information from forwarded emails.