Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Quote

Scrolling comments can be time-consuming and sometimes unpleasant -- there's a reason why scrolling can also be called trolling -- but occasionally it leads to an enlightening moment.

Tuesday's Wall Street Journal has an opinion piece weighing the pros and cons of extending unemployment insurance. Beyond the political of helping those in need matched by finding the money rather than just printing it, the piece challenges jobless benefits as actually extending and growing unemployment.

You'll decide on your own if the argument makes sense, but in the list of comments on the story there's a quote attributed to "18th century historian Alexander Tytler"; for those dismissive of Wikipedia as a source, the Wiki does include some of blogger Loren Collins' more extensive challenge.

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist 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, always followed by a dictatorship.

"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

"Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, 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 dependence back again to bondage."

Sounds real enough, doesn't it? But there's a great piece by Loren Collins -- a Georgia attorney and political hopeful running as a member of the Bull Moose Party -- first posted in 2004, now updated. He challenges the source of the quote, and debunking the "18th century historian" view of Tytler.

It's a nice reminder of how words can ring true whether or not there's truth behind them. At the very least it is thought provoking beyond the smoke and mirrors we're hearing from both sides in Washington these days.

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