Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Tyler Cycle, or "Bread and Circuses"

I found the graphic above in an article called "Why Barack Obama's Tax Plan Is So Wrong ". It is often attributed to Alexander Tyler, a 17th century Scottish historian, however it's actual origin is unclear. Whatever  the origin, the idea it expresses is that nations rise and fall, passing through specific phases and eventually failing once the people discover they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that point on, the majority always votes for whoever promises the most most benefits, and the democracy eventually collapses, nearly always followed by dictatorship.

I'd say we are just past "Apathy" in the cycle and are rushing headlong towards "Dependence", You can see what comes next.

Science Fiction god Robert Heinlien called this  problem "Bread and Circuses" - a reference to Roman Emperors providing food and entertainment to distract the masses.  In "To Sail Beyond The Sunset" the character Lazarus Long discusses this problem:
"A perfect democracy, a 'warm body' democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally has no internal feedback for self correction. It depends solely on the wisdom and self-restraint of citizens...which is opposed by the folly and lack of self-restraint of other citizens. What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes his own self-interest as he sees it...which for the majority translates as 'Bread and Circuses'
"Bread and Circuses is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader--the barbarians enter Rome."


Anonymous said...

I thought you should know that the quote from Heilien was read out on the air by Rush Limbaugh on the air morning.

I read the quote from Heilien's character, Lasarus Long, many years ago. The power of this short paragraph is all so perfect for today's time.

I devoutly wish that it could be printed everywhere and shouted from every hilltop. I certainly will do my best to point everything I can to point to your site.

Everyone needs to know the truth of Heilien's words for its too late!

Unknown said...

I'm very pleased Rush Limbaugh broadcast that quote, where millions heard it. I agree with you that it should be "shouted from every hilltop" - thanks for spreading the word! Time is short!

Anonymous said...

I am afraid that the next time a republic on this continent has a proper voting franchise, i.e., one where only the productive or the honorably discharged (think Starship Troopers) posess the privelege of voting, it will be after an annealing of monumental proportion. I hope my children are spared the brunt.

Anonymous said...

Great post, AstroRoach! You put this up almost 2 years ago and now we've reached Dependency. We better reverse this FAST!

dcole78 said...

I posted this quote on my facebook page and I am also glad Limbaugh talked about it as I agree most definitely. I didn't used to believe this but after working for a time in the community college system. I do now.