Captain Obvious Strikes Again

The following quotation can be found all over The Internet and is used by Right Wing Conservatives to encourage and sustain their ideology:

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 lousy fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average of the world’s great civilizations before they decline has been 200 years. These nations have progressed in this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from 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 dependency; from dependency back again to bondage.”

It is attributed to be from the book The Cycle of Democracy or The Fall of The Athenian Republic published in 1770 and authored by Alexander Fraser Tyler, a Scottish-born British lawyer, writer, and historian.

But it’s not.

There is no record of such a book or quote even in the US Library of Congress which houses over 128 million items.

But it’s such a great quote. Where did it come from and when was it first used?

Loren Collins, an attorney from Atlanta, Georgia, attempted to track down the origins of this notorious Internet quote.

He writes, “… Each quote can be traced back at least as far as the 1950s, but only with anonymous attribution … The authors were most likely not famous persons or respected scholars, but rather just private political thinkers who got their words in print … The passage of time merely encouraged quoters to attach an author’s name that strengthened the authority behind the words.

... Perhaps the words speak the truth of democratic governments; or perhaps they do not. But either way, attributing the words to a scholar who never spoke them is to lend to them an authority and reliability that they do not deserve. Anonymous quotes, which these almost certainly are, should not be given fictitious attributions merely to lend credence to the messages they impart. To do so is to favor persuasiveness over accuracy, and to sacrifice truth for the sake of image.”

The quote appeared during the period when Right Wing America was on a commie-purging binge and civil rights were being hamstrung.

Here are just some of the more (in)famous conservatives who used this quote.


  • John E. Swearingen, chairman of the board for 44 years of Standard Oil in a 1961 speech,
  • Ronald Reagan in a taped speech at a Barry Goldwater rally in 1964,
  • Senator Strom Thurmond in a 1965 speech,
  • and “humorist” P.J. O’Rourke in his 1991 book Parliament of Whores.


And it can be found on almost 6,000 web pages.

So Why Is It Used so widely by The Right Wing of the Republican Party?

I hate to be Captain Obvious here, but this quote, with its bogus historical authority, succinctly legitimizes the Right Wing Conservative credo of:

Whatever You Do … Do Not Give Poor People Any Money or Our Nation Will Collapse!

And isn’t it absolutely gut-wrenchingly clear that the American people did not vote themselves largesse from the public treasury and never have?

It was the swinish Right Wing Conservatives who blasted open the doors to the vault and emptied the public treasury into the pockets of their corporate bosses. And after the safe was drained, they borrowed billions and billions more to give away to their robber-baron cronies.

According to the Treasury Department, during the first 224 years of U.S. history, 42 U.S. presidents borrowed a combined $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions, but in the past four years alone, the Bush administration has borrowed $1.05 trillion.

Without their vote or consent, this debt has been placed upon the backs of the American people … for how many more future generations?

The Grand Perversity of the Right Wing is they warn us that left unrestrained, the will of “The People” will tear down the country … as their agenda delivers us into dictatorship and hastens the obliteration of the republic.

Here are two quotes … from real people:

Remember, democracy never lasts long … The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing. Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the People, who have… a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean the character and conduct of their rulers. There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free ‘government’ ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty. Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among people.” -John Adams

And my personal favorite:

It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.” – Alfred North Whitehead

February 15, 2008


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