Alexander's Column

Liberty v the Fatal Cycle of Democracy

By Mark Alexander · Dec. 15, 2011

The Path from Freedom to Bondage

“Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them.” –Thomas Jefferson

December 15th marks the anniversary of the 1791 ratification of the Bill of Rights, the common name for the first 10 amendments to our Constitution. The purpose of the Bill was, and remains, to assert the enumeration of limitations on the national government in order to protect our natural rights to Liberty and property as “endowed by our Creator.”

There was much debate among our Founders about the need to enumerate rights that are inherently endowed, especially as amendments rather than in the corpus of our Constitution. Alexander Hamilton argued this point in Federalist No. 84: “I … affirm that bills of rights … are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous. … For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?”

But a majority of our Founders, led by James Madison and George Mason, prevailed, and the state legislatures concurred with the addition of enumerated limitations on the central government, as outlined by the Bill of Rights Preamble: “The Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added…”

Thus, it is a fitting day to pause and take account of the principles of Essential Liberty embodied in our Constitution, the sustenance for which generations of Patriots have expended much treasure, blood and life.

As a vigilant student of American history, I can’t state too emphatically that we are at a tipping point between Liberty and tyranny. I also argue that this juncture is like no other since the Tenth Amendment challenge that was waged and lost in the War Between the States.

For those who choose to read such words as hyperbole, Samuel Adams said it best: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands, which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

But it is the inherent nature of genuine Patriots to stand ever ready to defend Liberty, convicted that, in the words of George Washington, “Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind.”

It is in that spirit that I offer this observation about this precarious position we now inhabit between freedom and bondage.

Do you believe our nation is at a critical juncture? Post your opinion.

To fully understand the state of our Republic, one must consider it in the context of history to avoid repetition. As 20th-century philosopher George Santayana concluded in his treatise, “The Life of Reason”: “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In 1764, as historian Edward Gibbon “sat musing amidst the ruins” of Rome, he was inspired to write about the failure of republics. The original text of his seminal work, “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” was published in 1776, as our Patriot ancestors were declaring our natural right to Liberty. Gibbon outlined in detail how opulence and entitlement led to the incremental loss of civic virtue.

The 18th/19th century Scotsman Alexander Fraser Tytler, a lawyer and professor of history, summarized this link as follows: “[Patriotism], like all other affections and passions, it operates with the greatest force where it meets with the greatest difficulties … but in a state of ease and safety, as if wanting its appropriate nourishment, it languishes and decays. … It is a law of nature to which no experience has ever furnished an exception, that the rising grandeur and opulence of a nation must be balanced by the decline of its heroic virtues.”

Tytler’s assertion about the relationship between opulence and decadence reflected his astute understanding of human nature.

This contiguous rise and decline has been characterized as a fatal “Cycle of Democracy” (often misattributed to Tytler as its source). The cycle follows this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to Liberty (Rule of Law); From Liberty to abundance; From abundance to complacency; From complacency to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage (rule of men).

So, at what stage of this rise and decline do we now find ourselves? In his recent book, “After America,” Mark Steyn gives us a clue.

With their average 8th grade education, the Greatest Generation built the strongest and most innovative economy in history. However, “In the space of one generation,” writes Steyn, “a nation of savers became the world’s largest debtors, and a nation of makers and doers became a cheap service economy.” Indeed, our country now hosts the most over-educated and under-productive generation in history, and has institutionalized a social subculture demanding government subsidies to compensate for their lack of initiative.

“Big government makes small citizens,” Steyn concludes. “A great power can survive a lot of things, but not a mediocrity of spirit. A wealthy nation living on the accumulated cultural capital of a glorious past can dodge its rendezvous with fate, but only for so long.”

It is my observation that since WWII, we have transitioned from abundance to complacency, from complacency to apathy and from apathy to dependence.

At what stage of the cycle of democracy is our nation, and why? Post your opinion.

The rise of populist Socialism spawned by Barack Hussein Obama and his Leftist cadres, has resulted in a surge of dependence upon the state.

The manifestation of this dependence spilled onto the streets this year in the form of the “Occupy Movement.”

In fact, Time Magazine, that erstwhile advocate of statism, just named its 2011 Person of the Year, “The Protester.” Its cover story category, “Prelude to the Revolutions,” lists in order of significance, first Tunisians protesting dictatorial tyranny, second Egyptians protesting dictatorial tyranny, and third, “Occupy Wall Street and its millions of supporters.” (To be fair, a few paragraphs later Time did richly understate, “The stakes are very different in different places. In North America and most of Europe, there are no dictators, and dissidents don’t get tortured.”)

As for the gap between dependence and bondage, philosopher and author of “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand, wrote, “The difference between a welfare state and a totalitarian state is a matter of time.”

The most pressing question now is this: Are we irrevocably locked into the Cycle of Democracy where totalitarian rule of men is inevitable, or is there still time to restore republican Rule of Law?

The answer, I believe, is no and yes, respectively. But time is short.

The prospect for restoring Liberty as enshrined in our Constitution continues to improve as the number of Americans joining the debate over the proper role of government authorized by our Constitution grows strong. There is a resurgence of Patriotism underway, and together we can sustain the sunrise on Liberty.

We can and must circumvent the Cycle of Democracy to avoid the terminus of Democratic Socialism which is bondage. Together, we can maintain the momentum of our mission and charge. Thank you Patriots for locking and loading on the frontlines of Liberty.

View all comments


Timothy Rea said:

I don't believe we are at the juncture.I believe that we are past it, over the edge, and past the point of no return.

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Henry Bowman said:

Around the middle of the 18th century, an English professor made the following observation:"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can exist only until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a Democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy."The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this 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 dependence; from dependency back again into bondage."Unfortunately, the good professor seems to have nailed it. Goodbye, sweet America.

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:14 PM

Benjamin David Steele in Iowa City, IA replied:

The problem is that reality is more complex than ideology. In the context of reality, the ideological opposite is true as well:

"An undemocratic or antidemocratic society cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can exist only until the ruling elite discover that they can vote themselves --- along with getting the vote of others and disenfranchising the rest in order to usurp --- largesse from the public treasury by manipulating and deceiving voters, by controlling the political parties and the electoral process, by funding lobbyist organizations and think tanks, by making campaign donations unlimited and making corporations into fictitious persons, and by owning all of the mainstream media. From that moment on, the minority always votes and gets the votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a undemocratic or antidemocratic society always collapses over loose fiscal policy."

Ideological extremism is often the problem because it is easily used by tyrants to maniplate and control the masses. Dogmatism and propaganda go hand in hand.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 3:24 PM

Arlene G Kruse said:

We must keep up our fight against these socialist forces. Thank you for your enduring attention to freedom.

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:17 PM

H. W. Welch said:

We are at the "tipping edge" having already arrived at a state of "democracy" very close to mob rule as directed by a dictator! The Constitution has been trashed by our "elected" officials for quite some time whether Democrat or Republican.The only way back from the abyss is to reinstall the Constitution as the controlling document for the federal government. It must be absolute. Nothing in between will suffice or achieve a reconstruction of the foundation necessary.P.S. While you refer to Bill Bennet as a valuableand prominent reader of the Patriot, I must point out that had he followed Reagan's orders, we might not have the problems we face today. Reagan had promised to eliminate the Department of Education. He gave the job to Bennet who didn't follow through. His excuse, which he wrote me many years ago when I callenged him on it, were pure sophistry without substance. Sorry, but I don't have much use for Mr. Bennet

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:17 PM

Roger Anderson said:

i think its to late. the govt we have now does not have the "will" or desire to put it back./

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:17 PM

The Texas Cooke said:

What stage of democracy? The real question is "What stage of a republic?" We are at the "bread and circuses" stage. As in "dead-beats vote" and take from the productive. The "occupy" bunch named themselves well....because they are just taking up space!

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:18 PM

Sherman said:

Yes, our nation is at a critical juncture. The time at which the choice between liberty and servitude must be made again, soon. Congress no longer represents the will of the people, the justice system only protects the guilty, and the morals of the nation are in shambles. If we must once again fight for our freedom, let it be.

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Toni Hupp said:

I am 84 years old, lived through 4 wars, the New Deal, Great Dociety and now the "Change". The America I know and love is no more. Celebrating Diversity, Political Correctness, The Welfare State, allowing Illegals to stay and enjoy life at the tax payers expence, along with the Washington Wizards being out of their minds, has ruined our Republic, ignored the Constitution, and the rule of law pkus we allowed judges to legislate from the bench, has doomed us. The Progressives planned it this way.... Take over the schools, pile on welfare until a large portion of the nation depend on handouts and demand them plus greedy unions who have priced the USA out of business and driven the jobs overseas. Our debts can never be oversome and the hold socialism has on this country has doomed us. I am sorry my grandchildren will have to suffer this. I will be gone and not know the difference. Thank God!

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:20 PM

donna j thrasher said:

We are in the apathy to dependency stage and moving quickly to dependence into bondage. Tears for our country from this 63 year old woman. God help us.

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:20 PM

Alan Heers said:

Unfortunately, I tend to agree with Timothy, that we may be past the juncture

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:21 PM

Charles E Geddes said:

To Mark Alexander: I musty apologize, while I have supported the Post in the past I can not do so at this time. My wife and I are living on $20,000 per year and she just had a $54,000 hospital stay for blood clots in her lungs. I continue to enjoy and depend onthe Post for my information, I just can't help you at this time.Charles Geddes

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:23 PM

Bill said:

Our nation IS at a critical juncture today, this week, this month, this year and this decade. Unfortunately our freedoms and liberty have been eroding for several decades. I wonder if our downfall is much like a wave as it approaches shore.... it has been building in height and is now ready to break. Now, at this point there is not much we can do to keep it from breaking. Hopefully I am incorrect.

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:23 PM

Ken Binkley said:

Without doubt, the country as a whole is apathetic to the danger we are in. On a slippery slide, I'm convinced. And I can't seem to arouse but a very few to the danger.

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:25 PM

Ron Smith said:

President Obama is a socialist who is doing his best to ruin America.

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:25 PM

Frank said:

Saw a poll on that an overwhelming majority of people thought that SEAL Team 6 should be the "Persons of the Year". Just goes to show how out of touch with reality the folks at Time are.

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:26 PM