The last few weeks have seen the stock markets on pretty wobbly ground. As of close Thursday, the DOW Jones Industrial Average was a good 1,000 points below where it stood a month ago. And now, the people are crying out that the government must do something, not only for the economy but for the average person. We’ve seen a $700 billion bailout rushed through the legislature (which has actually been increased since then), but it hasn’t done any immediate good as far as stabilizing the markets is concerned, and now Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is talking about taking U.S. money and “infusing” it into banks to keep them stable.

But that too will ultimately fail.

Here’s why, from Scottish historian Alexander Tyler:

“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 largesse out of the public treasury.

“From that moment on, the majority will vote for themselves candidates who promise the most benefit from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will eventually collapse due to loose fiscal policy.”

People have been clamoring for their own bailout since the bailout bill, and already this year we have already gotten what was essentially free money in the form of a “economic stimulus.” Congress has already voted to extend all sorts of social benefits for the fiscal year, and the size of government will not shrink (and will undoubtedly grow) under either a McCain or Obama administration.

My point, however, is not purely about the national nightmare we accept as economic policy. There’s a second, subtler reading of Tyler’s work, but you need the rest of the quote to really grasp it.

“The average age of the worlds greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations progress through the following sequence:
From Bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.”

All of the great democracies eventually collapsed, not because of loose fiscal policy (though that certainly didn’t help), but because their people started to see the government as their provider and, if need be, savior. (Hence the recent belligerent foot stomping and “Do something, Congress! Do something!” mantra.) In other words, great civilizations — and national economies — fail because their people eventually enslave themselves to the false idol of government.

And all false gods fall.