Lifecycle of Civilizations


“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government.” 

That line was written by the Scottish lawyer/writer Alexander Fraser Tytler in the late 1700s.  It’s not known for sure if Mr Tytler coined these words:

 “A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always vote 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.”

But Mr Tytler is most definitely responsible for this sequence, known as the Tytler Cycle:

“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequences:

1. from bondage to spiritual faith;

2. from spiritual faith to great courage;

3. from courage to liberty;

4. from liberty to abundance;

5. from abundance to complacency;

6. from complacency to apathy;

7. from apathy to dependence;

8. from dependence back into bondage.”

I’ve always been fascinated by history, and the first time I heard about this cycle was the classic “lightbulb” moment.  It applies to every great empire and civilization: China, Persia, Greece, Rome, Britain, and now the American empire.  Some of you may balk at my referring to the American “empire”, but that’s another discussion entirely in itself.  The thing that gets me about this cycle, is just how deeply apathetic we, in the west, have become.

Actually, it’s not even the apathy that really bothers me.  It’s the ignorance.  The people who think and act like all the troubles in the world right now are happening for the very first time.  Sure the characters might be different this time around, but it’s still the same story. But even worse than that is the arrogance.  The people, and particularly some of our leaders, who know that it’s all happened before, yet continue to make the same mistakes and think that this time they can “beat the system”.  What’s that definition of insanity again? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

There’s no stopping this bus from going over the cliff, but it sure would be nice to know that at least one or two other passengers noticed that the cliff was coming.

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One response to “Lifecycle of Civilizations

  1. I agree with you. I remember when I was learning the history of the fall of Rome as well as other ancient civilizations in school. I asked my mother why we had started to follow in the same footsteps that lead to the demise of those civilizations. She couldn’t give a good answer, but praised my inquisitiveness non the less.
    America was most likely in the complacency stage at that time, and as a child I couldn’t understand why the “grown-ups” didn’t see it. Now present day I don’t see why my fellow “grown-ups” don’t see the signs, and we are coming to the end of the apathy stage. If the government bailing out large private companies and large masses of unemployed citizens calling for more government money and welfare doesn’t mark the beginning of dependence, then I must have my definitions crossed.

    Then again, history wouldn’t repeat itself if we actually learned from it.

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