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COLUMN: Sound advice has been given

By T.J. Ray

Special to the EAGLE

A former congressman, Ron Paul, has ads on most of the TV networks with his dire warning for our future, but others have been warning of disaster.

In 55 B.C., the Roman philosopher Cicero spoke to ominous conditions he saw in his society: “The Budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome will become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.”

Eighteen hundred years later, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, Alexander Tyler, commented: “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. [It] 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 votes 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.”

Commenting further on the fall of the Athenian Republic, he said, “The average age of the worlds greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these 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.”

In the 1930s before I came along, my Dad worked at the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp in Louisville, the one that became Legion State Park. It was and still is a beautiful place, like many such parks built by people working for the government because few private sector jobs could be found. In a strange way, World War II came along soon after the CCC was disbanded. That terrible conflict provided further employment and a focus for public attention and efforts.

Could it be that the ’30s and ’40s reflect Tyler’s idea of courage to liberty and from there to abundance?

If that be so, how then to see the final decades of the last century and the opening two of this century? Is it possible that affluence as a people has produced a complacency that the good times were here permanently? Have matters deteriorated from there quickly to dependence, certainly suggested by the growing numbers who get what they need from government? And does that government not continue to print money that has no value?

My generation has seen seven of Tyler’s eight steps come true. And though we’re getting old, we cannot help but speculate about two things — if there is anything that can stave off Step 8 and how much time is left before Step 8 takes effect.

Ah, Cicero, where were you and your very sound advice when we needed you.

T.J. Ray, a retired professor of English at the University of Mississippi, can be reached at tjmaryjo@bellsouth.net.