One of Joe Biden’s last official acts as vice president was to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Speaking at the forum on January 18th, Biden warned the democratic world order is at risk of collapse.
His comment was not aimed at the incoming administration of Donald Trump but, rather, at Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he specifically named. Biden accused the Russian strongman of being a destructive force.
Biden said it was time to reinforce the values of Western democracy Putin was undermining. He added, “It’s imperative that we act urgently to defend the liberal international order.”
Ironically, Biden sought to place the risk of the world’s democracies collapsing all on Putin’s shoulders, without sharing credit with the administration he has been serving for eight years. It is not unlike an arsonist helping to set a house on fire and then shouting a warning to others it may burn down.
Eighteenth century Scottish historian Alexander Fraser Tytler made an observation about democracies that is proving true today.
It was Tytler’s belief democracies, by their very nature, could last little more than two centuries. While America has passed that mark, it is suffering the fate Tytler claimed would befall all democracies. He cited their fatal sequence as follows:
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 loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 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 into bondage.
When presidential candidate Barack Obama was campaigning in 2008, he called the debt run up by President George W. Bush of approximately $500 billion “unpatriotic.”
One month into his presidency, Obama made a promise about the debt that he then failed to keep. On February 23, 2009, he stated, “…today I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office. This will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we’ve long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay – and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control.”
White House media director Macon Phillips added, “This is big… And we’ll do it in a new way: honestly and candidly.”
Obama not only failed to cut the debt, he failed to get his own spending under control. It is estimated by the time he left office, the debt had tripled. Our children are now strapped with a debt they will most likely be unable to repay.
While some may seek to dismiss his spending as the cost of having to fight two wars, another startling reality about his presidency fully supports Tytler’s observation: Obama has become the first president in our history to spend more money on welfare than on defense.
While Biden emphasized it was time to reinforce the values of Western democracy which he accused Putin of undermining, he totally ignored the undermining of the American work ethic that unlimited welfare has brought—evidenced by the debt the Obama administration has helped balloon.
As Tytler predicted, voters discovered they could “vote themselves largesse from the public treasury,” in this instance by voting for Obama and Biden. Similarly, voters in European democracies have learned to milk state treasuries.
Biden also commented at Davos that, since he is now leaving office, he will start to say what he thinks.
It is ironic politicians like Obama and Biden, who have been doling out benefits for years — in many cases to make the voters their party depends on dependent upon them — should now wish to sound the alarm about the damage to our democracy their own actions have wrought.
Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of “Bare Feet, Iron Will–Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields,” “Living the Juche Lie: North Korea’s Kim Dynasty” and “Doomsday: Iran–The Clock is Ticking.” He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.