Saturday, July 10, 2004

Here's a response to this lie that's been floating around the internet lately that my wife wrote. I think she does a pretty good job of de-bunking this puppy....
Just before I was going to send this I made an interesting discover about the validity of this quote. Check out the link at the end.

Thanks for the article. As you can imagine, I had many problems with it. In some places I question the validity of the argument on its own merits, and in other’s I question how this can be used to justify a Republican vote. Enjoy.

> > At about the time our original 13 states adopted
> > their new constitution, in the year 1787, Alexander
> > Tyler (a Scottish history professor at The
> > University of Edinburgh) had this to say about "The
> > Fall of The Athenian Republic" some 2,000 years
> > prior.
> >
> > "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.
> >

Let me first point out that we do not live in a democracy. We specifically do not live in a Greek city-state type democracy where the citizens voted directly on each issue. We live in a republic. So the assumption that America will follow this general trend is easily disputed. Citizens of a republic never vote on budget decisions and have no authority to allocate generous gifts from the public treasury. Instead, we vote for representation, and our representatives vote...even in a presidential election.

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."

I suppose we could assume that the people will realize that they can vote for representatives who will choose to vote for generous gifts from the public treasury to be given to the people. Our current political climate is in sharp contrast to such an outcome, however. To be elected as a representative in our republic has become so expensive that only the wealthiest Americans being funded by the wealthiest Americans ever stand a chance of being elected to represent the common person. The inevitable outcome of this is that the interests of the wealthy few are over-represented.

Okay, so lets break Tyler's argument down and assume that it is really a loose fiscal policy that leads to the collapse of a democracy. In the US government of today I’m not too sure who this argument is for. Loose fiscal policies have been seen in virtually every White House Administration in my lifetime. There are two major ways for the government to try to smooth out the economy: monetary policy and fiscal policy. Monetary policy, the Federal Reserve's domain, attempts to stimulate growth by reducing the discount rate which increases the amount of money in the system. This is called loose monetary policy. Tight monetary policy is what was happening during the Reagan administration when rates were higher in an attempt to limit inflation. Fiscal policy, which is harder to make changes to, but affects the economy more directly is the other way for the government to try to smooth out the economy. This can either be done by increasing or decreasing direct government spending and/or with tax cuts or tax hikes. A loose fiscal policy is used to stimulate a sluggish economy either by government spending to create jobs or by making tax cuts. Tyler’s argument that a loose fiscal policy is followed by a dictatorship is on the one hand really weird because it makes no sense, but on the other hand certainly not an argument for a Republican vote.

By the way, I am in complete agreement that the economy can be stimulated with tax cuts. I think it is a little riskier than stimulating the economy through direct government intervention using job creation (ie FDR's New Deal and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society), but as you may have guessed, I'm a democrat. Both of these programs resulted in dramatic reductions of the number of Americans living in poverty. Two weeks after job's are created, paychecks are going to formally unemployed people. Money is being spent in local economies which very quickly finds its way up the the wealthiest Americans. This is an aggressive approach to reduce poverty in America without the use of government handouts. Instead it taps into American ambition and desire for success. I’ve been studying economics with one of my clients who has her PhD in economics. Check out the following website. It has a great discussion of monetary and fiscal policies:

Back to tax cuts. Tax cuts have proven success in stimulating the American economy. BUT NOT WHEN THEY ARE SPECIFICALLY TARGETED TO THE RICH!!!!!!! If Bush would have decided to make null and void the federal income and payroll taxes of say the Americans who earn 2/3 or 3/4 of the national median income, those people would have spent that extra money! It would have poured back into our struggling economy and therefore would have resulted in more income for the the people that didn't get a tax cut. The bottom 50% of Americans will be receiving less than $100 from Bush's latest tax cut. This of course, sharply contrasts Bush's assertions that the "vast majority of my tax cuts go to those at the bottom end of the spectrum." There is a great article discussing why 10 nobel laureate economists signed a statement criticizing Bush's tax cut. It is worth reading.

> > "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:

There are so many things wrong with this paragraph, I don't even know where it start. First let's start with the word average. If you average my net worth with Bill Gates net worth, you could say that our average worth is about $30 billion. Technically true, but misleading. Second, for us to apply this great civilization thread to the downfall of democracy argument of the last paragraph we must assume that all of these great civilizations were democracies. You majored in history. You know that is not true. In fact most representative democracies started in the 1800's. And the great civilizations of Greece, Egypt, Babylon, and Rome each lasted over 1000 years. The Indus valley civilization lasted about 800 years. That is a lot of great civilizations that lasted a really long time. Perhaps they are being averaged with civilizations that really shouldn’t be called “great.”

> > 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."

Give me something to back this up. I already don't believe a word this guy says. He lived before the birth of most democracies on this planet, and we are using this very strange timeline of the AVERAGE 200 year civilization as a cautionary tale for our country? Wow.

> >
> > Professor Joseph Olson of Hamline University
> > School of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota, points out some
> > interesting facts concerning the most recent
> > Presidential election:
> >
> > Population of counties won by:
> > Gore=127 million
> > Bush=143 million
> >
> > Square miles of land won by:
> > Gore=580,000
> > Bush=2,2427,000
> >
> > States Won By
> > Gore=19
> > Bush=29
> >
Actually it was Gore 20, Bush 30

> > Murder rate per 100,000 residents in counties won
> > by:
> > Gore=13.2
> > Bush=2.1
> >
Here are some more interesting facts:

Of the wealthiest 10 counties in the U.S. all voted for Al Gore.

Of the wealthiest 10% of counties, only 55% voted for Bush (175 of 314)

Of the poorest 10% of counties, 75% voted for Bush (238 of 314)

> > Professor Olson adds: "In aggregate, the map of
> > the territory Bush won was mostly the land owned by
> > the tax-paying citizens of this great country.
> > Gore's territory mostly encompassed those citizens
> > living in government-owned tenements and living off
> > government welfare..."

This is the most mind-bogglingly stupid paragraph in this whole email. Professor Olson is craftily using the word encompassed to lead the reader into the following line of reasoning. More people live in cities than in rural areas. So, more poor people live in cities than in rural areas. Cities contain government-owned tenements. Therefore, if most of the people who voted for Gore lived in cities, they must be people living in the projects off welfare checks. Yes, I'm sure that the nearly 51 million votes Al Gore received were from people living off government welfare. Here’s a similar line of reasoning. “The northern hemisphere encompasses most of the communist countries in the world.” No sane person would take that to mean that all the countries in the northern hemisphere were communist or that there were no communist countries in the southern hemisphere. It’s complete nonsense...just like Olson’s paragraph.

Perhaps, one could argue that the people living in cities have not sheltered themselves from the true state of crime and poverty in America.

> > Olson believes the U.S. is now somewhere between
> > the "complacency and "apathy" phase of Professor
> > Tyler's definition of democracy; with some 40
> > percent of the nation's population already having
> > reached the "governmental dependency" phase.

First of all, Professor Tyler did not give a definition of democracy. He seems to believe that he can predict the development of democracy, but this is certainly debatable since most of the democracies in the world developed after he wrote this. Check out this link concerning the history of democracy in the world

But I digress.

How did Olson come to his determination of the US being somewhere between complacency and apathy? Apparently he believes that 40% of Americans have reached the "governmental dependency" phase. I question his definition of governmental dependency. Who is he including in this category?

"The Health and Human Services Department said Wednesday that the number of individuals on welfare dropped more than 4 percent between March 2002 and March 2003, to about 5 million people." The Associated Press September 3, 2003

5 million people is about 1.7 percent of the American population.

Maybe he is talking about Americans over age 65 who are on Medicare:

In 2003, Medicare covers 35 million Medicare enrollees ages 65 and over, and six million enrollees under age 65 with disabilities. These 41 million Americans comprise 14% of the U.S. population. (Kaiser: Medicare at a Glance)

Of course, to assume that because you are over 65 and using your well-deserved medicare coverage (that you paid for your entire working career) you are dependent upon the government is quite a stretch. Of course, those two numbers together only add up to 15.7%. Still we are far below this mysterious 40% number. Maybe if you include all the people receiving their social security benefits you could reach 40%. I'm guessing Professor Olson won't turn down his social security benefits when he reaches age 65. After all, he has been paying for them his whole life.

I've got an argument. 100% of Americans have reached the stage of governmental dependency. We are dependent upon the government to fund our police and fire departments. We depend on the USDA to keep our food safe. We depend on the DOT to provide us with roads, highways, and bridges. We depend upon the EPA to help keep our air and water clean and we depend on the public education system to help educate our people. We depend on the armed forces to protect our country. The list goes on and on. I don't want to do all of these things for myself. I believe we all benefit by doing these things as a group. Maybe I'm just complacent and apathetic.

> >
> > Pass this along to help everyone realize just how
> > much is at stake in this Election Year and that
> > apathy is the greatest danger to our freedom.
> >

Okay, so I just decided to stop because I could shoot holes in this email all weekend. Then I got to wondering, is this Alexander Tyler guy even real? I mean, if he supposedly lived in 1787, he couldn’t have really studied any democracies besides Greek city-states. And, Greek city-states didn’t have representative democracies. So what was he talking about in the first paragraph. Anyway, I did some digging. Turns out there is no Alexander Tyler from Edinburgh. There is an Alexander Fraser Tytler. There is no book in the library of Congress about the “Fall of the Athenian Republic,” or something like it. Check out the following website, which evidently contacted Professor Olson, who claims he never said any of the quotes in the email.

I thought about not sending all of my comments, since this email is totally fabricated, but decided to send them anyway. This has become real because people are passing it on and using it as a reason to not address the real issues of our country.
Tytler, Alexander Fraser (Lord Woodhouselee)
Do you have in print or electronic form something called The decline and fall of the Athenian Republic (1776) by a supposed Edinburgh University History Professor Alexander Fraser Tytler (Lord Woodhouselee)?
I've heard of a quotation by Alexander Fraser Tytler about the lifespan of democracy. Was it in The decline and fall of the Athenian Republic?
Edinburgh University Library occasionally receives enquiries, particularly from North America, about this particular work. However, this title is not in our Library holdings, nor does it appear in the stocks of the other major research libraries in the UK (according to the 'union' catalogue COPAC)...
Locally, the chapters of Tytler's General history ... (which we DO have) has been checked on the off-chance that The decline and fall might have been a chapter title... but it is not...
Clarifying a bit more, the earliest published works of Tytler that we have are:
Plan and outlines of a course of lectures on universal history, ancient and modern, delivered in the University of Edinburgh. Edinburgh, 1782. Note: Presentation copy from the author.
Elements of general history, ancient and modern. To which are added a table of chronology and a comparative view of ancient and modern geography. 2 vols. Edinburgh, 1801. Note: Presentation copy from the author.
The two volume work is a published version of the lecture course outlined in the plan.
The publication situation is a bit complicated by later editions of the lectures, sometimes with an additional volume by different other authors bringing the coverage up to 1820 and later the 1840s and 1850s.
Additionally we hold bundles of unsorted, or comparatively unsorted manuscripts of Tytler.
Often in the enquiries we receive we are provided with a 'quote' (see below) from Tytler referring to the steps that a democracy can go thro' prior to its fall but this is not in the General history... either.
We have scanned our holdings pretty thoroughly on different occasions, going back a few years now, but we have not found the quotation or anything similar to it, but we cannot absolutely rule out the possibility that we have missed it.
With regard to the 'quote', the Library of Congess which has a substantial collection of Alexander Fraser Tytler, and has experience of working with his output, also confirms that it is not in the General history.
In Soldiers of fortune. The story of the Mamlukes by John Bagot Glubb 'Pasha' (1897–1986), published in New York by Stein and Day, 1973, Glubb gives an unattributed reference to stages in the 'life of democracy', stating p.230 that the words were written by Alexander Fraser Tytler but providing no source. By his own admission however, on p.9, Glubb was not a scholar.
[Quote]...: A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government ... The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have 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 selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, and from dependency back into bondage.

Professor Olson teaches Business Associations, Business Planning, Contracts, Corporate Finance, and taxation courses.
DISCLAIMER: There is an e-mail floating around the internet dealing with the 2000 Bush/Gore election, remarks of a Scotish philosopher named Alexander Tyler, etc. Part of it is attributed to me. It is entirely BOGUS as to my authorship. I've been trying to kill it for 3 years. For details see:

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