A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
“Golf and sex are about the only things you can enjoy without being good at it” (11/23)
“An onion will make you cry, but they never have invented a vegetable that will make you laugh” (11/23)
“Some debts are fun when you’re acquiring them, but none are fun when you’re retiring them” (11/23)
“Facebook is like jail” (joke) (11/22)
“If people are trying to bring you down, it only means that you are above them” (11/22)
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Entry from November 27, 2009
“Democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government”

Entry in progress—B.P.

Wikipedia: Alexander Fraser Tytler
Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee (15 October 1747 - 5 January 1813) was a Scottish-born British lawyer and writer. His son was Patrick Fraser Tytler, traveller and historian.

Translation
Tytler wrote a treatise that is important in the history of translation theory, the Essay on the Principles of Translation (London, 1790). It has been argued in a 1975 book by Gan Kechao that Yan Fu’s famous translator’s dictum of fidelity, clarity and elegance came from Tytler.

Tytler said that translation should fully represent the 1) ideas and 2) style of the original and should 3) possess the ease of original composition.

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.

Quotation
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 complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.


This passage actually comprises two quotations, which didn’t begin to appear together until the 1970s. 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. The quote appears to be original to Prentis. No original author can reliably be determined for the first paragraph. It is possible that ‘’[whoever first made the statement was paraphrasing or] drawing a conclusion from the quotation given’’ by Bartleby at the link listed below.

Wikiquote: Alexander Fraser Tytler
Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee (October 15, 1747 – January 5, 1813) was a Scottish-born British lawyer and writer.

Sourced
. “It is not, perhaps, unreasonable to conclude, that a pure and perfect democracy is a thing not attainable by man, constituted as he is of contending elements of vice and virtue, and ever mainly influenced by the predominant principle of self-interest. It may, indeed, be confidently asserted, that there never was that government called a republic, which was not ultimately ruled by a single will, and, therefore, (however bold may seem the paradox,) virtually and substantially a monarchy.”
.. Universal History, p. 216

Unsourced
. 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.
.. Earliest known appearance of this quote is in an 1951 editorial in The Daily Oklahoman. The quote has not been found in Tytler’s work. It has also been attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville.

There are many variants circulating with various permutations of majority, voters, citizens, or public. Ronald Reagan is known to have used this in speeches:

. Perhaps what he had in mind was what Prof. Alexander Frazer Tytler has written, that a democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse out of the public treasury. From that moment on the majority, he said, always vote for the candidate promising the most benefits from the treasury with the result that democracy always collpases over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship. Unfortunately, we can’t argue with the professor because when he wrote that we were still colonials of Great Britain and he was explaining what had destroyed the Athenian Republic more than 2000 years before.

Other variants:
..The American Republic will endure until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money.
..The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.

Misattributed
. The historical cycle seems to be: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependency; and from dependency back to bondage once more.
.. From 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. 

1 June 1946, Brainard (MN) Daily Dispatch, “Washington Letter” by Congressman Harold Knutson, pg. 3, col. 8:
More than two centuries ago, a Professor Tytler, of the Edinburgh University, made the following observation.

“A true democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the electorate discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. From then on the majority always votes for the representative who promises most out of the public treasury, and soon the democracy collapses because of its loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship.”

9 December 1951, Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK), “This Is the Hard Core of Freedom” by Elmer T. Peterson, pg. 12A, col. 4:
TWO centuries ago a somewhat obscure Scotsman named Tytler made this profound observation: “A Democracy cannot exist as a permanent from 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.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Friday, November 27, 2009 • Permalink