Sir Alex Fraser Tytler theorized that "a democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess of the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great 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."
He lived between 1742 and 1813. The U.S. has existed as a sovereign nation for a little over 200 years, so should we be happy that our government has outlived its life expectancy? That would make us complacent.
I agree with Sir Alex's hypothesis, however, I do not believe that society as a whole progresses smoothly from each of his nine steps. In the case of the U.S., Canada, and much of twenty first century western civilization, I think that certain segments of the population reach the various stages differently and therefore the overall population my have elements of some if not all of the phases simultaneously.
It is quite clear from the voting patterns in the U.S. that a significant portion of the population is either complacent or apathetic since such a large portion of the population fails to vote. Of those who do vote, their re-election of pork-barrell politicians for decades suggests that they are adhering to Sir Alex's initial hypothesis - they are voting themselves largess of the public treasury.
Early in our nation's history, we were a devout, god-fearing society with strong spiritual faith. Indeed, one of the major principals of our government is the freedom to worship whichever god we choose in the manner we desire. With our belief in God and the help of the French, we fought the tyranny of George III and created a nation of liberty.
Over the decades, our liberty brought prosperity that was marred only briefly by our Civil War. That which does not kill us makes us stronger, and we emerged from the war as a strong nation. The industrial revolution brought abundance which we enjoyed even as most of Europe was embroiled in a horrible war. The selfishness of isolationists in our government blocked our entry into World War I until very late. We continue to show signs of this selfishness unless our economic interests are threatened. Somalia, Serbia-Croatia, Palestine/Israel, and Taiwan are all examples where we failed to take a visible and active role in serving the common good until very late. Yet we deposed the dictators of Panama and Iraq quickly and with great force due to their impact on our economy.
The government is a reflection of the ugliest parts of the society that it governs. Our people have grown complacent in their selection of elected officials and we sit idly by while our leaders lie, cheat and steal...and possibly worse. We remained largely apathetic when our President molested a 21 year old office worker - in the White House, then lied about it. Whether one believes that two adults have the right to do what they want behind closed doors is immaterial. By engaging in these activities, Bill Clinton put himself in a position where he could easily have been blackmailed. This lapse in judgement and more importantly his bold-faced lies about it and his feeble attempt to mince words should have resulted in his immediate dismissal. Imagine if ANY of our corporate leaders had been caught getting a blow job from a 21 year old secretary in their office...how long do you think they would keep their jobs? The same standard should have been applied to Clinton. The apathy and complacency of the governed allowed him to remain in office.
A significant portion of our population is completely dependent on the government - and the taxes I pay - for their very survival. Their dependence knows no bounds. The flooding from Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed New Orleans. Yet the locals resorted to thievery and murder while holding out their hands DEMANDING that the rest of the nation help them. These people have been dependent on the government for so long that they were incapable of escaping a storm that everyone knew was headed their way. The flooding took three days to destroy New Orleans. It was neither sudden nor unexpected. Yet these people sat by waiting for the government to help them instead of helping themselves and each other. Even worse, their local government proved their incompetence by also showing their dependence on the Federal Government. There are those who would say that the response to the problem in New Orleans was a result of the race of the people most affected by the disaster. Hogwash! If the majority of the population had been some other race that sat idly by - demanding help, the response would have been no different. Self-reliance is key and the people of New Orleans who stayed behind had absolutely no self-reliance whatsoever. They have placed their entire existence in the hands of the government. It is precisely this type of dependence that will return us to bondage and dictatorship. Some of us are already there.