Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee (15 October 1747 - 5 January 1813) was a Scottish lawyer, writer, and professor. Tytler was also a historian, and for some years was Professor of Universal History, and Greek and Roman Antiquities, in the University of Edinburgh. Tytler's other titles included Senator of the College of Justice, and George Commissioner of Justiciary in Scotland. Tytler was a friend of Robert Burns, and prevailed upon him to remove lines from his poem "Tam o' Shanter" which were insulting to the legal and clerical professions. His son was Patrick Fraser Tytler, traveler and historian.
Misquotation - Tytler Cycle
The following unverified quotation has been attributed to Tytler, most notably as part of a longer piece which began circulating on the Internet shortly after the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election.
A democracy 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. 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 selfishness;
- From selfishness to complacency;
- From complacency to apathy;
- From apathy to dependence;
- From dependence back into bondage.
There is no reliable record of Alexander Tytler's having made the statement. In fact, this passage actually comprises two quotations, which didn't begin to appear together until the 1970s. The first portion (italicized above) first appeared on December 9, 1951, as part of what appears to be an op-ed piece in The Daily Oklahoman under the byline Elmer T. Peterson. The original version from Peterson's op-ed is as follows:
Two centuries ago, a somewhat obscure Scotsman named Tytler made this profound observation: "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy."
The list beginning "From bondage to spiritual faith" is commonly known as the "Tytler Cycle" or the "Fatal Sequence". Its first known appearance is in a 1943 speech "Industrial Management in a Republic" by H. W. Prentis, president of the Armstrong Cork Company and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers, and appears to be original to Prentis.
Now, with the realization that we never learn from our past, and as such, are doomed to repeat it, just how long do we have with this experiment called democracy? If, indeed, 200 years is about the limit of a democracy’s existence, we’ve outrun the meter. There is every indication that we fall into the “From apathy to dependence” bracket. That leaves us with one more bracket to go before we are all up the creek without a paddle. Is it possible to recover the disciplines that made us the envy of the entire Planet? I think it will be much “easier” to let democracy come crashing down around us, before we feel the need to reorganize. At my ripe old age, I certainly won’t have to experience the fall, but my children, and their children, will be left to pick up the pieces. And, the way things are going, there won’t be too many pieces left to pick up. So, what then? Will there be a nuclear winter, as some have predicted? Will cooler heads prevail in time to at least save humanity? Right now, I have to say no to the cooler heads, and yes to the nuclear winter scenario.
Nobody likes to hear about the fact we have become a Welfare State, but just look at the numbers. Consider what is defined as Welfare:
1] Of course there is Welfare, itself, and the prescribed list
of auxiliary entitlements that go with it.
2] We are all aware of Medicaid.
3] Student loans are in there, too.
4] And, you can nit-pick the details down to the last food
What is not Welfare:
1] Social Security; we pay for that.
2] Medicare; we pay for that, too.
Some other, less talked about forms of Welfare:
1] Have you ever considered that subsidies to Corporations,
complete business sectors, Agriculture, and Individual
Tax subsidies? Corporate Welfare, alone, costs this
Country 5-6 trillion dollars a year.
2] How about those Public Sector pensions that are tied into
Union Contracts and the last year’s salary of the
recipient? That looks like another trillion, or so, out of the
It’s no wonder we have to borrow from China, South America, Europe, Russia, and, not in the least, the Federal Reserve. When does this stop? It may all come down to the prediction, based on History, that we will need a Dictatorship, or Monarchy, to save us from ourselves. It seems such a waste.