The following quote appears to be a compilation of things said by a number of people in the late 1700’s. Some researches doubt their authenticity even pointing to a businessman making this statement almost word for word in a speech he gave in the 1940’s with no reference to any historian. A decade later politicians began to attribute it to Scotsman Alexander Tytler in the 1780’s or to Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville. The true source of the statement remains a mystery; however, there seems to be a pattern that we can observe as we look at republics and democracies of history.
“A democracy is 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 seem to progress through the following sequence:
- From oppression to spirituality (faith in God or gods as national rescuer).
- From spirituality to courage to fight.
- From courage to liberty as a free or new nation.
- From liberty to abundance as citizens advance because of individual freedoms.
- From abundance to complacency when citizens and leaders begin to feel and act as if they have arrived a greatness or perfection.
- From complacency to apathy thinking that they have no real voice and that what happens does not matter, because they are comfortable.
- From apathy to dependence on Government to take care of them.
- From dependence back into bondage as citizens give government more and more authority and control of their lives.
If these stages are reliable, in my opinion (and that is what this is) the United States is now somewhere between the “complacency and apathy,” with some of the nation’s population already having reached the “governmental dependency” phase.
My concern is not as much about the fate or potential fate of our nation as the fact that this pattern flows in the Church and in individual Christians as well. We are set free from sin and our faith leads us to courageously step out for Christ and search how we can be more and more useful in His cause. We continue to grow in our spirituality and realize our freedom in Christ and live abundantly in His grace. Learning of grace and living in grace can easily lead to self-satisfaction (Rom 5:18-21) and taking grace for granted. This mindset leads to a lethargic approach to Christian living (in Jeremiah’s time the people felt secure because of the ‘Temple’ – cf. Jer 7:4). When we become “at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1) we begin to depend on others to tell us what to believe and stop studying for ourselves, soon we wake to find ourselves enslaved by this laziness or worse we fall prey to false teaching.
What is the antidote? How can we fight this progression (regression)? In our nation we can avidly fight and campaign for Bible based morality and leadership. As individual Christians and collectively as the church we can “Be sober-minded; be watchful (sober / vigilant). Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Pet 5:8. We must “do our best to present ourselves to God as approved, workers who have no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Tim 2:15.