Regardless of who said it first (and there are various debates about it--I won't bore you with them), the following quote is amazingly insightful.
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess 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 about 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.Notice the first half of the quote before the ellipsis. That is always the danger of democracy -- voters with bad hearts. Give freedom of choice to people without a conscience and they will almost always choose evil. Yet, it is the second half of the quote that I want you to be thinking about more. Most of you know that I like studying history. The pattern listed here can be seen in numerous civilizations of the past. Ancient Rome is one of the most obvious; and there are volumes written to lay it out for us.
So then, we should be asking ourselves, what stage are we at here in America? After all, we are well past the 200-year mark that it mentions. Most would admit that we appear to be past apathy and heading into dependence. Of course, there is not a guarantee that we will move smoothly through these stages; any one of them could occur quickly and last only a short time, but that is not usually the case.
We have been forced into depending on the government for many things, and (by our own choice) we have manufactured various devices that force us to depend on them as well. Not all dependence is bad, but the current "nanny state" in these USA is certainly not encouraging faithful and diligent hard work. You can see dependence encouraged all over this land, and many of our politicians appear to want even more of it (they call it socialism--as if that were a good thing--but it is just another form of tyranny). This runs contrary to the basic principles of the Catholic understanding of subsidiarity and solidarity. Every time I mention how problematic Social Security and Welfare are (most specifically because they discourage family unity, parental responsibility, and basic hard work) people respond with, "but how else will they get the money they need?" It rarely occurs to people that there is another way.
So as we continue to go through this decline in our civilization, it is helpful to know that there are certain patterns that we can expect. And maybe, just maybe, this time we could prepare ourselves to move away from the phase of bondage to a new spiritual faith much quicker. Maybe, just maybe, parents could see the errors of the previous generations and decide to be faithful in how they raise their children. Maybe, just maybe, our penitence will be a part of turning this land of America into a new land of greater holiness that will not follow the pattern in the quote above. Remember, God loves doing miracles for His faithful people.