Benevolent tyranny

By Charles Bloomer
web posted November 6, 2000

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship." Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813)

Two hundred years ago, this Scottish jurist and historian provided a clear analysis of the inherent problem with democracy. Tytler goes on to describe the sequence of attitudes that contribute to the rise and fall of a democratic society. The process starts with a society in a state of bondage, leads through spiritual faith and courage to liberty and abundance, then selfishness, complacency and apathy to dependency, finally returning to bondage.

As we look at American society today, it is interesting to note how prescient Tytler was.

Although we can argue about where we are today on Tytler's schedule, there is no doubt that there are factions among us that wish to accelerate the process – factions that will take advantage of our complacency and apathy, exploit our selfishness to lead us into dependency and bondage.

The clearest example of this trend is the 2000 Democratic Party Platform. This fifty page missive is a road map that leads straight to a tyrannical government that will have control over every aspect of our lives. This platform exploits our selfishness by providing something for everybody, despite the fact that very little of its contents is supportable by the Constitutional limits on the federal government. More disturbing is that polls show that upwards of forty percent of our voting population are willing to vote for candidates that support and embrace this platform.

The attempted reach of the Democratic Party is staggering -- universal health care, expanded government intrusion into daycare and early childhood development, eldercare, education, wages, paid leave for parent-teacher conferences, retirement, college and lifelong learning, victim's rights, protecting our "most vulnerable" citizens, hate crimes, domestic violence, a patient's "Bill of Rights", teen smoking, even an "Electronic Bill of Rights". The Democrats want government to be our big brother, our sugar daddy, our hand holder, the benevolent provider of all our wants and needs. What they want to give us is nothing less than a benevolent tyranny – a tyrannical system that takes our freedoms, destroys our liberties while making us think that it has our best interests in mind.

People who put their faith into such a manifesto ignore reality and history. In the history of the world, there has never been a successful socialist society. The more closely controlled the society, the more catastrophic its downfall.

There has never been a truly benevolent government. Government is about power, and power is a zero-sum process. We are either leaders or we are led. When the government gains more power, it gains that power at the expense of the people it governs. When we agree to give the government more power, we are surrendering some of our own power. As government gains more power, we lose more and more of our freedom. If we surrender enough power, if we become dependent on the government, the government gains the advantage and we move closer and closer to tyranny and dictatorship. We will either control our government, as our founding fathers intended, or our government will control us, as the Democratic Party prefers.

A review of history shows that Tytler has been right – so far. But nothing says that his analysis is carved in stone, that a society cannot alter the path it chooses to follow. There is in America today enough of the original American spirit of rugged individualism to arrest this slide toward dependency and bondage. The flame of freedom and liberty is not dead, but that flame needs to burn brightly to overcome the selfishness, complacency and apathy that will enslave us.

We have the opportunity to subdue our selfishness in this election. We can refuse to vote ourselves "largess from the public treasury". We can overcome our complacency and our apathy by informing ourselves of the issues and voting to preserve our liberty. We can support those candidates that are most likely to give us smaller, less intrusive government – candidates that support our desire to live in freedom and that respect our independence.

Alexis de Toqueville wrote in 1856 "He who desires in liberty anything other than itself is born to be a servant". We can take back the power the government has stolen from us, re-establish our responsibility for ourselves, turn our backs on dependency, and reject the absurd notion of a benevolent tyranny. We can vote to live in liberty.

Or we can be slaves.

© 2000 Charles Bloomer. Mr. Bloomer is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right. He can be contacted at

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