The Death of Democracy: You Can’t Believe Everything You Read

October 16, 2012

Current Events, Financial

Is America collapsing like Athens?

If you’re like most people with an email address, you’ve received a message from a foreign national. In it he claims that you could make a large sum of money if you’d just help him smuggle funds out of his suppressive nation. All he needs is your bank account information and he’ll deposit the freed funds there in a few days. You’ll split the proceeds.


There are a bunch of variations to this internet scam. Whatever the specifics, they all want your financial information and in return they’ll give you a bunch of money. But we all know that this is too good to be true, don’t we?

The Best Lies Have an Element of the Truth

Recently I received a forwarded email. But this one wasn’t an email trying to relieve me of some hard earned cash. No, this email was sent to help enlighten me to a situation.

The email cited a quote from Alexander Tytler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh during the late 1880’s. According to the email, the good professor penned a book about the fall of the Athenian Republic many years ago, outlining why the Athenian democracy was doomed to fail.

Then the author of the email highlighted some parallels to the current state of affairs in the U.S. and drew some very specific modern-day conclusions about the nation’s bleak future.

Here’s a short excerpt.

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 over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.

The prose went on to rail on Obama’s fiscal policies and likened the current U.S. debt and entitlement predicaments to that of the Athenians. I’ll spare you the rest of the details.

Intrigued, I did a quick search on the internet and found several sources that disputed the authenticity of the citation, including Snopes and Wikipedia.

Listen to the Content, Not the Words

Despite being misattributed at best and an outright fabrication at worst, I gave some thought to the content of the forwarded email. Some of what it proclaimed makes sense. In particular the statement cited above seems to ring true to a certain extent.

The U.S. has run a budget deficit in each of the last four years of at least a trillion dollars. That means that the government has spent more than $1,000,000,000,000 than it took it. The U.S. now has more than $16,000,000,000,000 in outstanding debt. That’s staggering.

How much is a trillion? If you stacked 1 trillion 1$ bills on top of each other (not end to end but stacked them like you would in your wallet) the resulting stack would be nearly 68,000 miles high. That’s almost 1/3 of the way to the moon!

Much of that deficit is in the form of untouchable entitlements. Untouchable in that they, by law, have built in spending increases. They are also untouchable in the political sense as well.

Lay it at the feet of Obama, or Bush, or congress, or whomever you will. The fact is that the government has dug a hole so deep that it’s very difficult to see a way out of it. Add to that the fact that Americans have, for most part, grown very accustomed to a cushy way of life and it appears that difficult times are ahead.

Please don’t misinterpret this as a political post. It’s not. I’m not blaming anyone person or even a single party. To me, this is simply an observation. And it’s yet another reason to prepare for the future.

The likelihood of successfully continuing down the fiscal path that the U.S. government is currently on seems just about as likely as receiving those funds from the foreign national.

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6 Comments on “The Death of Democracy: You Can’t Believe Everything You Read”

  1. scrambo Says:

    I agree with your position entirely and people like to lay blame with the current administration, and everywhere else! I challenge you to think about this…Go to your local civic government meeting and just listen. These are your local politicians and civic leaders. Listen to their machinations of passing these codes to do this or that. To raise your property values or increase public safety. Just think about each of these things taking place and what they mean to your personal liberties. I myself would rather raise chickens in my back yard and have a little stand in the front yard where I chop their heads off, gut them, and wrap them in newspaper for a small profitable fee. This is how I believe you raise your property value – you turn it into a profit center. That wouldn’t fly at your local commissioners meeting….folks will come out of the wood works to stop you from your pursuit of happiness on your own property…and there in my friends lies the foundation of the problems we face in our country today….


  2. Corey Says:

    Actually, most of the debt has naught to do with entitlements, and mostly all attributed to foreign wars placed on the proverbial credit card.


    • Joe Says:

      I definitely wish that the U.S. hadn’t financed a foreign war with credit. Although it certainly contributed to the red ink, I don’t think that alone is the reason the U.S. is $16 trillion in debt. Have a look at this breakdown.

      Whatever the reasons, though (unfunded wars, entitlements, what-have-you), it doesn’t really matter in the long run. The fact is the U.S. is not positioned very well financially and I think prudent citizens will prepare for tough times ahead.

      Thanks for the comment, Corey.



      • Corey Says:

        You are correct. It’s not only the unfunded wars. It was also the unfunded tax cuts, unaccompanied by spending cuts that did it in.

        Personally? I think the US is rather strong financially. We are the reserve currency for the globe (Everyone’s currency is denominated in US dollars), we export the more food than any other nation in the world, and we have direct control over the economic capital of the globe. That’s half of the “Credit Rating” we have. The other half is that we have the most stable government in the world, coupled with a constitutional mandate to pay our debts. The only way we would default is if there was another civil war where the US lost, and the separatists won.

        Now, that was a mouthful. That being said, I still think it’s wise for people to prepare for tough times ahead, and hopefully, the tough times will never happen. But, when they do, you are prepared. When they don’t? Nothing lost.


        • Joe Says:

          “Now, that was a mouthful. That being said, I still think it’s wise for people to prepare for tough times ahead, and hopefully, the tough times will never happen. But, when they do, you are prepared. When they don’t? Nothing lost.”

          Well said! As for the rest, I hope you are right.




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