The fall of the Athenian Republic Debunked

An avid reader of my blog, Bernard Wishnia is on some master email list and gets almost every possible item circulating on the Internet. So he sent me the following email and asked me to check on it. I know what you are thinking, he can simply go to Snopes and see whether the facts stated in the email are true or not; however, Bernard Wishnia doesn't simply want a true or false answer, he likes detail and he knows that I rarely give a simple answer, that I like to give good detail.

So first off, here's the email making the rounds:



How Long Do We Have?

About the time our original thirteen states adopted their new constitution in 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years earlier: "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 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 a loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by dictatorship." 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 sequence:

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!

Professor Joseph Olson of Hemline University School of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota, points out some interesting facts concerning the 2008 Presidential election:

Number of State won by Democrats 19, Republican 29.
Square miles of land won by Democrats 580,000, Republicans 2,427,000
Population of counties won by Democrats 127 million, Republicans 143 million
Murder rate per 100,000 residents in counties won by Democrats 13.2, Republicans 2.1

2008 election map

Professor Olson Adds: "In aggregate, the map of the territory Republicans won was mostly the land owned by the taxpaying citizens of this great country. Democrat territory mostly encompassed those citizens living in government-owned tenements and living off various forms of government welfare..."

Olson believes the United States is now somewhere between the "complacency and apathy" phase of Professor Tyler's definition of democracy, with some forty percent of the nation's population already having reached the "government dependency" phase.

If Congress grants amnesty and citizenship to twenty million illegals and they vote, then we can say goodbye to the USA in fewer than five years.

Apathy is the greatest danger of our freedom.

Notice that only in the states of Alaska and Oklahoma: All counties were won by McCain/Palin

The original posting with this information is below this Newsweek article at this link

First off, this is an email circulating on the Internet from the Bush-Gore election of 2000 and the statistics are from that election not the McCain/Obama 2008 election.

As for the number of states won, the actual number was Gore 20, Bush 30.

The square miles of land won and the population of counties won by the candidates is correct for the 2000 election. However the murder rates are incorrect. There are a number of ways to determine these numbers, by the states won by the candidate, by the counties won, by the cities won, but none of these even come close to the 13.2 to 2.1 quoted by the email. Various calculations come out to a 6 to 4 ratio. However, I'm sure that if the Feds kept the political affiliation of murderers we would probably come close to the initial figure.

If you click on this PDF-map from Columbia University you will note that highest murder rates coincide greatly with NYC Housing Authority areas. Of course it should be noted that 93% of Washington, D.C. went for Obama - the murder rate in D.C.? 35 per 100,000 - 3.5 times greater than any other state in the union. What does this prove? Nothing other than it is probably safer to live in areas with a lot of Republicans in them.

Sorry to jump between the 2000 and 2008 election results but as far as the murder rates the statistics will show that Obama won in the highest murder rate areas as did Gore in 2000. But everyone knows that Democrats are thieving, lying, murderous sons of bitches, so what? I say live and let live.

As for the line: "Democrat territory mostly encompassed those citizens living in government-owned tenements and living off various forms of government welfare..." - this may also be quite inaccurate; Bush won in states that received more in taxes than they paid while Gore won in states that paid more in taxes than they got back; from a study by Dean Lacy of Ohio State University and Hoover Institution:

2 Mar 2002,
A Curious Paradox of the Red States and Blue States: Federal Spending and Electoral Votes in the 2000 Election

Abstract: Thirty of the U.S. states reap more in federal spending than their citizens contribute to the federal government in taxes. The other 20 states provide more in taxes than they receive in spending. In the 2000 U.S. presidential election, George W. Bush won most of the states that are net beneficiaries of federal spending programs, while Al Gore won most of the states that are net contributors to federal spending. A state’s ratio of federal spending to tax dollars, particularly non-defense spending, is a statistically and substantively significant predictor of Bush’s margin of victory across the states. A state’s per capita federal tax burden is also associated with the election result: states with higher tax burdens gave higher vote margins to Gore. Compared to Clinton’s state-by-state vote shares in 1996, Gore did worse in states that gained in federal spending per tax dollar from 1998 to 2000.

It should also be noted that variations of this email have appeared on thousands of forums and websites without the authors checking to find out that Professor Olson denies being the author of the piece.

As for Alexander Tyler (actually Alexander Fraser Tytler), a short history can be gotten here, but no mention of any book with Athenian in the title. This is not dispositive of the question whether Tyler actually wrote any of the material quoted in the beginning of the email, since Tyler wrote extensively on Athenian history in his book "Universal history, from the creation of the world to the beginning of the eighteenth century" and mentions Athens 166 times. However, the exact words quoted at the top could not be found, so unless there has been some great paraphrasing, it is doubtful Prof Tyler wrote exactly the phrasing of the material ascribed to him.

The closest Tytler came to the sentiments expressed above was on page 216 of his Universal history:

The revolutions to which those states, and particularly the former, was subject, plainly prove that their constitutions were not framed for stability, or for any long measure of duration; and the condition of the people (the true criterion of the merit of any political fabric) was, in reality, such as to partake more of-actual servitude and oppression than the condition of the subjects of the most despotic monarchies. It is a known fact, that the slaves formed by far the greater part of the inhabitants, both of the Athenian and Lacedaemonian states; and to these, more especially at Lacedamon, the free citizens behaved with the most inhuman rigor. Neither were the free citizens more inclined to a humane and liberal conduct to those of their own condition; a debtor became ipso facto the slave and bondman of his creditor, who might compel him to labor in bondage and fetters at his pleasure. Thus, a great part, even of the free citizens, was actually enslaved to the other; a circumstance which we shall see, under the Roman commonwealth, was the source of the most violent civil commotions. We may judge then with what propriety these can be termed free governments, where abject slavery was the condition of the majority of the people. Nor were the superior classes in the actual enjoyment of a rational liberty and independence. They were perpetually divided into factions, which servilely ranked themselves under the banners of the contending demagogues; and these maintained their influence over their partisans by the most shameful corruption and bribery, of which the means were supplied alone by the plunder of the public money. The whole, therefore, was a regular system of servitude, which left nothing free or ingenuous in the condition of individuals, nor any thing that can justly furnish encomium to an unprejudiced advocate for the dignity of human nature.

If such was the condition of the chief republics of antiquity, whose liberty we so frequently hear extolled with boundless encomium, and whose constitution we are taught from our childhood to admire, (and, in fact, this may fairly be ranked among the prejudices with which ingenuous youth can scarcely fail to be tinctured from a classical education,) it is not, perhaps, unreasonable to conclude, that a pure and perfect democracy is a thing not attainable by man, constituted as he is of contending elements of vice and virtue, and ever mainly influenced by the predominant principle of self-interest. It may, indeed, be confidently asserted, that there never was that government called a republic, which was not ultimately ruled by a single will, and, therefore, (however bold may seem the paradox,) virtually and substantially a monarchy. The only difference between governments, with respect to the political freedom of the subject, consists in the greater or the smaller number of restraints by which the regulating will is controlled.

As for the map, it is an accurate map of the results of the 2008 election and as I mentioned, has nothing to do with the statistics preceding it. For a map of the 2000 election go here. If you want to know more about the meaning of those little red and blue dots, Mark Newman, Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems, University of Michigan, has a fascinating essay explaining the differences behind the various congeries of voter blocs in the last election.

As for the Newsweek link, here, the information in the email simply came from a reader who left it as a comment and carries no more weight than a rapper who spouts ignorant opinions about our Founding Fathers.

So, some things are true, some things are false, some things are from another time period, and as usual the Internet helps spread falsehoods and misinformation. But the Internet also spreads the truth as one may usually obtain in this blog.

I will read the histories as written by Tytler and will report back if there is any update needed in my article.

My previous articles on Hoaxes here.

Related: Loren Collins has done excellent extensive research on the Tytler portion of this email in his article The Truth About Tytler

### End of my article ###

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