Snouts in the trough


The eighteenth century Scottish judge Alexander Fraser Tytler, said “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public Treasury”. In other words, democracy evolves into kleptocracy.

If Tytler were alive today, surely he would have added that the rot begins with a state education system and a national syllabus which themselves eulogise the State. What else can cause highly intelligent and educated people to plead for funding of their personal interests, even as Rome is burning?

Thus can eminent scientists seek more taxpayer funding for science, while sportsmen write in the Telegraph that, “A party that prioritises sport might get my vote”. More generally those making good livings from “the arts” (actors, musicians, and so on) seem to bleat almost perpetually in the broadsheet newspapers.

Did all these worthies not learn that science and inventions, sport, and “high-brow” entertainment were thriving features of the UK throughout the 19th century (and earlier), when state funding wasn’t on anybody’s agenda. Indeed, government involvement would have been pooh-poohed on the basis that not only would it come with strings attached; it would also become contaminated. Indeed this has happened in spades to science and statistics in the last 75 years.

The end of democracy is nigh, unless it is severely constrained via a constitution which puts most current government functions firmly off limits. Fat chance.

Terry Arthur is a keen sportsman and played rugby for England in 1966.