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.
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.
The earliest known attribution of this quote was December 9, 1951, in what appears to be an op-ed piece in The Daily Oklahoman under the byline Elmer T. Peterson, Elmer T. Peterson (9 December 1951). "This is the Hard Core of Freedom". Daily Oklahoman: p. 12A.. The quote has not been found in Tytler's work. It has also been attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville.
There are many variants circulating with various permutations of majority, voters, citizens, or public. Ronald Reagan is known to have used this in speeches, as reported in Loren Collins, "The Truth About Tytler":
Other variants: The American Republic will endure until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money. The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.
The historical cycle seems to be: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy, from apathy to dependency; and from dependency back to bondage once more.
This quotation was actually by Henning W. Prentis, Jr., president of the Armstrong Cork Company and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers, in a February 1943 address entitled "The Cult of Competency" delivered at a Mid-Year Convocation of the General Alumni Society of the University of Pennsylvania (The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle, Vol. XLV, Numb. III, April 1943, pp. 272-73).
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 that 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. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence: