Jamie Freeze Baird
When politics and history collide
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By Jamie Freeze Baird
March 19, 2010

Students of history quickly learn that the annals of history are full of cycles and patterns. After all, history repeats itself. Of course, history is made every day, and historians debate how quickly current events can be called history. One thing that fascinates me is reading what politicians in centuries gone by have said concerning the politics of their day. In reading, I came across this quote by Alexander Tytler (later echoed by Benjamin Disraeli): "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."

Americans have long known that they could vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. The New Deal of the 1930s forever altered the fiscal policy of America. The government became a safety net for millions of Americans. Thus began the slippery slide into government interventionism that we have yet to recover from. As the decades have passed, we have created a culture that expects the government to catch them when they fall. We have millions of people who depend on the government for many things. Gone is the sense of personal responsibility that was prevalent pre-New Deal. As history progressed, many Americans began to demand more generous gifts from the public treasury. In November 2008, Americans elected the man who promised to give them the biggest benefit from the public treasury. Obama promised to not raise taxes for middle-class Americans, yet he promised to provide universal health care. His promises require the suspension of disbelief. Now, with a country steeped in a loose fiscal policy, I have to wonder: when we will collapse into a dictatorship?

The case could be made that the Democrats are trying to impose a dictatorship over the health care agenda. They have declared health care a universal right and have tried to silence all opposition. They have used threats, bribes, fear tactics, and numerous other methods to persuade politicians (and the public) that the health care "reforms" are the best solution for America despite strong public opinion to the contrary. Alas, the days when politicians actually cared what their constituents wanted seem to be behind us.

Tytler did not stop with his prophetic statement. He went on to give us what is called the Tytler Cycle. He stated that the average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been about 200 years during which the following sequence prevailed:

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 case could be made that the Puritan's spiritual faith led them to escape the bondage of England in the mid 1600s. That faith led to great courage to settle a new world and face uncertain futures. That courage led to a fight for liberty from British oppression in the late 1700s. That hard-won liberty led to a time of great abundance in America during much of the 1800s. That abundance gave way to complacency in the 1860s as brothers fought over state rights and slavery. That complacency led to apathy in the wake of Reconstructionism. That apathy led to dependence during the Great Depression. That dependence is leading us back into bondage to an oppressive government.

As noted by Henning W. Prentis, the stage between apathy and dependency is when "men always turn in fear to economic and political panaceas" (Henning W. Prentis, Industrial Management in a Republic (1943), p. 22). He went on to say,

    New conditions, it is claimed, require new remedies. Under such circumstances, the competent citizen is certainly not a fool if he insists upon using the compass of history when forced to sail uncharted seas. Usually so-called new remedies are not new at all. Compulsory planned economy, for example, was tried by the Chinese some three milleniums ago, and by the Romans in the early centuries of the Christian era. It was applied in Germany, Italy and Russia long before the present war [World War Two] broke out. Yet it is being seriously advocated today as a solution of our economic problems in the United States. Its proponents confidently assert that government can successfully plan and control all major business activity in the nation, and still not interfere with our political freedom and our hard-won civil and religious liberties. The lessons of history all point in exactly the reverse direction (Henning W. Prentis, Industrial Management in a Republic (1943), p. 22).

Had I not known Prentis was writing in 1943, I would have been sure he was writing in 2010. America is quickly descending into the maelstrom of political bondage. Unless we continue to resist the leftist politics that have consumed Washington, we may find ourselves in the dictatorship Tytler warned us about. We must be careful to not fall into the traps of fear and irrationality. Rather, we must rally around the foundation that made America great: limited government, laissez-faire economics, free enterprise, and personal liberty. After all, unless we learn from history, we are condemned to repeat it.

© Jamie Freeze Baird

 

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Jamie Freeze Baird

Jamie Baird received battlefield experience in the war of ideology while attending the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. While earning her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History, she served as Vice President of the College Republicans and was the lone conservative opinion columnist for The Carolinian, UNCG's student newspaper. After surviving college without becoming a liberal, she graduated in 2009. Jamie received her Master of Arts in Government, with certification in Law and Public Policy from Regent University in 2011, where she was also active in the College Republicans. You can contact Jamie at jamiebaird12@gmail.com with questions, comments, rants, and snide remarks.

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