Letter: The eight stages of a democracy

By Keith Sime /

‘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 complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage.”

The above quote has been attributed to Scottish historian Lord Tytler. Its true genesis is unknown, but it serves as a road map to examine the current state of our Democratic Republic.

The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1776. Our first test was the Revolutionary War where against all odds we successfully rebelled against Great Britain. Since then we have survived a great civil war, multiple recessions, many crises, two world wars and have endured for 238 years — 38 years past the average.

I submit that we had successfully navigated through the first stages and crossed into true abundance after successfully winning World War II, when we became the only superpower, a beacon of liberty and the envy of everyone in the world. What has happened since then, and what phase are we in now?

According to treasury.gov, the national debt at the end of WWII was $269 billion, first reached $1 trillion in 1982, was $10 trillion in 2008 and has risen almost $8 trillion in 6 years to $17.6 trillion today. Moreover, various estimates of federal unfunded liabilities are north of $100 trillion. That’s $55,000 and over $1 million respectively for every man, woman and child in the U.S. What about the so-called “debt limit,” the amount that is supposed to limit Congressional spending? Since 1960, Congress has unfailingly raised the debt limit 78 separate times.

According to Cato Institute studies and other sources, the government has spent more than $15 trillion since Lyndon Johnson launched the “War on Poverty,” and there has been scarcely any improvement. Unfortunately, the vast majority of current programs are focused on making poverty more comfortable rather than giving people the tools that will help them escape poverty. Our current welfare system provides such a high benefit level that it acts as a disincentive for work. Welfare currently pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states, and in Hawaii it’s over $60,000 per year.

Last month’s annual Congressional Budget Office report states that by 2024, Obamacare will reduce the size of the U.S. labor force by 2.5 million. Jay Carney, echoed by several news outlets and several Democrat senators, declared, remarkably, that it’s a good thing that millions of Americans may drop out of the workforce because they would have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. All this, thanks to the generosity of other taxpayers.

In 1970, 12 percent of the U.S. population didn’t pay any federal taxes, according to the Heritage Foundation. That number rose to 49.5 percent in 2009. In 2011, the number who didn’t pay any federal taxes was 51 percent according to the Atlantic, and various other sources place the number between 43 percent and 53 percent.

The internals of these issues can be argued, but the obscene and increasing amount of debt, the total lack of fiscal responsibility by the president/Congress, the disincentive to work propagated by the welfare/Obamacare programs and the increasing number of those not paying federal taxes cannot be denied and doesn’t bode well. So, what phase are we in now? You make the call.

— Keith Sime lives in Sunriver.