Blog•January 10, 2005 1:46 PM ET
on borrowed time
Scottish historian Alexander Tytler said the following: "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 candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years." What intrigues me about this philosophy is that Tytler lived from 1747 until 1813, clearly before the United States had truly established itself as the most powerful nation (and beacon of democracy) in the world. Yet one couldn't possibly read Tytler's piece and not consider the modern United States a candidate for financial (and ultimately, democratic) collapse. Just something to consider.