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Will Voters Resist Repeating the Errors of History?

We all have heard the cliches about history repeating itself – and understanding the past is the key to understanding the future. It is sometimes an unfortunate reality, but perhaps we need to look at how human behaviors shape this repeating history.

Alexander Tytler was a Scottish advocate, judge, writer, and historian who served as Professor of Universal History and Greek and Roman Antiquities at the University of Edinburgh. Tyler lived at the same time as the American founding fathers and described a repeating cycle in history. Tyler found that democratic societies went through this same cycle again and again and that the cycle lasted roughly 200 years each time. The idea states that democracy is temporary in nature. It isn’t easy to exist as a permanent form of government.

A democracy will continue to exist until the time that voters discover 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. Every democracy will finally collapse due to the robbing of the public treasury, which is always followed by a dictatorship. Tytler said the repeating cycle starts with a society in bondage, its rise, and subsequent fall back into bondage (see feature framework chart).

The Tytler Cycle goes in the following sequence:

  1. Bondage – a point of degeneration and despair where no change will help – centralized control.
  2. Spiritual – people oppose the conditions and search for some unity in a common cause.
  3. Courage – the fight for freedom.
  4. Liberty – success, the formation of codified freedom with the promise of opportunity.
  5. Abundance – maturing of government, material growth, and prosperity.
  6. Selfishness – the greed of material gain creates corrupt special interest groups, often using the levers of government.
  7. Complacency – the sense of entitlement of legacy groups, whining, and complaining of the developing conflicting interests.
  8. Apathy – accept no responsibility for problems and blames everyone else for a system of corruption.
  9. Dependency – control of independence to control corruption and the centralization of freedom, leading back into bondage.

The cycle is long and requires that generations pass to forget how they got where they are in their present phase of the cycle. The cycle rarely reverses, though mini-cycles can appear within the larger cycle. Note that this cycle is mostly referring to the masses. One would have to superimpose the dynamics of how other axes (economic, political, and social, to name a few) intersect with this framework model. The other thing would be that different people can be at different points in the framework model – phases could somewhat overlap at a single point in time.

Given this framework model, Right Wire Report asks, where is America in this model today? At the birth of America, who shed the shackles of Europe’s tyrannical monarchies, with its newly earned freedoms, mustered the courage to build the nation. America exploded with abundance and achieved unparalleled success on the global stage. But some of this abundance has turned into selfishness and complacency. Do Americans understand what it took to build this abundance?

Yes, America has abundance, but abundance can be lost. As Alexander Tytler said, and as we hear from many of the current politicians today, they are trying to convince you to vote yourself free lavish gifts from the public treasury. Free education, child care, healthcare, … the list goes on and tallies up into the trillions of dollars. This fiscal irresponsibility will eventually put us all back into dependency. 

Perhaps some Americans are stuck in the apathetic phase of this Tytler Cycle and can not see this coming danger. This does not mean you have to be. If enough people rise up, perhaps this will not happen. But one needs not to be apathetic and VOTE wisely this November.

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