Atanu Dey On India's Development

Back on the Road to Bondage

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.

Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813), Scottish jurist and historian, professor of Universal History at Edinburgh University.

  • Praveen

    “they can vote themselves largess of the public treasury”

    sorry my english is bad, i didnt understand the above statement, does it mean “inspite of public treasury”?

    Atanu’s response:

    Praveen, Largess (or largesse) means
    1. Liberality in bestowing gifts, especially in a lofty or condescending manner.
    2. Money or gifts bestowed.
    2. Generosity of spirit or attitude.

  • http://valluvar.blogspot.com shiv

    Spot on. Democracy is a journey not a destination. Even the most autocratic social setup is fundamentally democratic in some respect. This brings to mind Frank Herbert’s premise that Aristocracy is the only lasting form of governments and constitutions are ultimately tyrannical.

  • http://thoughts2shair.blogspot.com Sabarish Sasidharan

    Spot on !

  • Mike Lorrey

    Democracy is vicious cycle of descent into tyranny. In that respect, it is a ‘journey’, though not one I’d want to take voluntarily.
    This is the distinction between democracies and republics. As Polybius described the Roman constitution, what we’d call the executive today holds the powers one would ascribe to a monarchy, while the senate holds powers that check the executive and behaves as an aristocracy, while it is the body of the People who operate as a Democracy. So long as the three act to check each others power, balance and stability is retained. When one branch is the dominant, the road to tyranny commences. Here in the US, many of us believe it began when the Senate became popularly elected by the people, rather than by the state governments. Others of us see it as having begun when the Constitution was passed, or when Lincoln broke it in order to save it.

    In any event, the very fact that few governments have withstood the historical pressure to pillage the public trough for long makes obvious that tyranny and revolution is a necessary part of the rebirth of liberty, if only to re-teach the lessons of history to those who have forgotten the lessons of their ancestors.