That society is constantly changing.
- Once we were ruled by kings.
- Then we were oppressed by nobles.
- Now we are governed by democracies.
That some changes happen more than once.
- Kings have been deposed many times.
- Aristocrats have been corrupted many times.
- People have fought oppression many times.
That similar changes often arise from similar causes.
- The desire to preserve law and custom often causes few to challenge one.
- The desire to increase wealth and status often causes few to oppress many.
- The desire to achieve equality and liberty often causes many to struggle against few.
That similar causes are often produced by human nature.
- Human beings react similarly to similar stimuli.
- Where economic and social conditions are similar, human behavior is similar.
- The aggregation of similar human behavior produces similar social phenomena.
That the chief preoccupation of mankind is to improve its status.
- When insecure, we struggle to be secure.
- When inferior, we desire to be equal.
- When equal, we want to be superior.
That the primary occupation of mankind is to improve its surplus.
- Our labor mostly concerns the creation or transfer of technology, income, or wealth.
- The accumulation of material surplus is the easiest way to enhance and display status.
- Mankind has succeeded in improving its surplus, making progress appear linear.
That mankind’s occupations do not satisfy its preoccupations.
- In order for some of us to be superior, most of us must tolerate being inferior.
- In order for all of us to have equality, we must all suppress the desire to be superior.
- We cannot maintain either condition without suppressing much ambition.
That mankind’s preoccupations preordain constant political struggle.
- What many desire appreciates, what many acquire depreciates.
- After we acquire one level of status, we always desire a higher level of status.
- Because the objects of our desire are limited, we will always contend with scarcity.
That political struggle especially concerns the distribution of wealth.
- Where wealth becomes common and abundant, it becomes coveted by most people.
- Where wealth is coveted by most people, it becomes the chief object of political power.
- The prospect of wealth is easily used to induce or coerce people to action or omission.
That the present distribution of wealth anticipates the next stage of political struggle.
- When one obtains great wealth, few will pursue equality with one.
- When few obtain great wealth, many will pursue equality with few.
- When many obtain great wealth, some will pursue superiority over all.
That the successive stages of political struggle advance in a predictable sequence of evolution.
- In the beginning, mankind was savage and poor. Before there was peace and abundance, men lived according to force and instinct. Food was scarce and warfare was constant. Life was dangerous and harsh. People struggled to survive. When insecurity and scarcity prevailed, people submitted to the rule of the strongest man.
- Tribes with a common language united and settled under a single chief. Farmers began to produce a surplus of food. Many obtained the necessities of life. Customs were fixed. Life became safer and more secure. When the chief drew his power not only from force, but also from the loyalty and affection of his people, he became a king.
- Wealth and power was obtained by a few people. Those who accumulated too much of either became arrogant, and sometimes cruel. In time, the king became one of them. He then put himself and his favorites above everyone else. When the king violated the traditions of his people or wasted a great deal of wealth, he became a tyrant.
- Sooner or later, the tyrant was resisted by his most powerful subjects. He was resisted for defying ancient custom or for wasting wealth. Sometimes he was replaced by his challengers. Other times he was forced to share power with them. When the challengers tried to establish law or restore custom, tyranny was subdued by aristocracy.
- The aristocrats in turn soon became accustomed to privilege and status. They cared more for power and prestige than anything else. Some of them became jealous of greater men. Some of them oppressed the poor and the weak. When many people came to resent the ruling upper class, aristocracy was perverted into oligarchy.
- The people often resisted their rulers. But only those who supplied the military or paid taxes won the right to share in ruling. This only happened where many people acquired some wealth, such that there was a middle class. When a middle class took part in government with the upper class, alongside the oligarchy emerged democracy.
- Over time, the wealth of the middle class was concentrated in few hands. The middle class merged with the poor. The rich prevailed. Insecurity returned. Many rallied to popular leaders who promised relief and competed for power. When the middle class wasted and the poor were set against the rich, democracy turned into demagarchy.
That the sequence of evolution is repeated in a cycle of revolution.
- The cycle of revolution has run when some form of monarchy arises from demagarchy, thus restarting the sequence of evolution. The early stages are common. The later stages are rare. The complete cycle is not everywhere seen because most places in most times do not advance as far as democracy. Oligarchy is the ordinary condition of mankind. Where democracy does emerge, however, the full cycle will run its course.
- Democracy is created by an independent middle class. Democracy follows the middle class. Democracy does not long survive without it. The emergence of democracy has been historically rare because the development of an independent middle class has been historically rare. Once they have established their own security, citizens of the middle class will establish democracy. They will do this by conditioning an indispensable contribution to the community upon the right to participate in its government. Where democracy becomes entrenched, the right to participate will be extended to even to the lower classes. But later, after the dilution, dissolution, or dependency of the middle class, the rights to participate will survive. These rights will continue even for who do not contribute, or who contribute less than they cost, and thus do not satisfy the original justification for democracy. After this happens, there will be a great political struggle. There must be a struggle, because there will be many who are dependent or poor, few who are rich, most harboring great animosity, and all having an equal claim to participate in government. Ambitious leaders will see and exploit this state of affairs.
- Demagogues, or popular leaders, will compete for the affection and loyalty of the people. They will obtain it through their promises to intercede against the rich on behalf of the people and to look after their livelihood. At first, the rich will be able to deflect this threat or obtain special exemptions by bribing some popular leaders and admitting others into their ranks. But once the middle class has been sufficiently exhausted and diluted, and the multitude has finally become accustomed to living off of others, the rights of the people must give way to the power of the popular leaders. Whatever their rights, the dependence of the people will ensure their allegiance to their patrons. Democracy and dependence do not long coexist. After the middle class has withered, nothing will absorb the tensions between rich and poor. This animosity between the classes will fuel a great competition among the popular leaders to surpass their predecessors and to surpass each other in the affections of the people. This competition will in turn ultimately result in the emergence of a single leader, for a single champion is the outcome of every tournament. Only time will tell by what accident of history the champion in that contest will be a warrior chief, benevolent king, or despotic tyrant.
- Human nature is spring-loaded for the cycle. Given enough wealth, time, and people, this cycle will run its full course over and over again. Before a cycle is done, there may be false starts, stunted progress, periodic reversals, early resets, varying numbers of stages, and a great variety of historical accidents that obstruct and obscure the cycle. In the end, however, human history must follow the path that has been appointed by human nature.
That the cycle of revolution can be seen in human history.
- The cycle of revolution ran its course in classical antiquity. Rome provides the most perfect example of that time. The first kings were remembered with affection, the last kings with resentment. In the 6th century B.C. an aristocracy expelled the last tyrant. By the 5th century the people were in revolt against an oligarchy. The military organization in the 3rd century implies something of a middle class. The political organization of the 2nd century implies something of democracy. By the end of the 2nd century the middle class was ruined. By the beginning of the 1st century loyalty to the Roman state had been replaced by the patronage of the popular leaders. By the end of the 1st century B.C. authority in the Roman state had been vested in the emperors. From monarchy, though republic to empire, the cycle ran its full course in Rome, drawing the whole of the Mediterranean basin in its train and under its domain.
- The cycle of revolution has nearly run its course in the west. England gives us the clearest example of our time. The first kings are known for being brave and wise. Their successors are known for being reckless and inept. In the 13th century A.D. an aristocracy subdued the monarchy. By the 14th century the people rebelled against the nobility. By the 17th century an oligarchy was firmly entrenched. In the 18th century a middle class was taking shape. In the 19th century democracy was taking effect. By the end of the 20th century the middle class was in decline. In the beginning of the 21st century the rich were growing in wealth and the poor were growing in numbers. By now it is clear that demagogues will continue to grow in power as more people fall out of the middle class and rally against the rich. It also seems likely that this pattern will be followed wherever English is the prevailing language.
That the rotation of the cycle is spring loaded, contingent upon the diffusion of wealth.
- When most wealth comes to be controlled by one, one will rule.
- When most wealth comes to be controlled by a few, a few will seize the power to rule.
- When much wealth comes to be held by many, many will demand the right to participate.
That in most times and most places, most wealth is held by a small upper class.
- Scarcity has been harsh and competition has been fierce in most times and places.
- Most wealth is usually controlled by few even in times of great abundance and freedom.
- Many people lack either the ambition or ability to acquire great wealth.
That public policy favors a few where most wealth is held by a small upper class.
- The ability to create or transfer wealth is the principal source of political power.
- When only a few have political power, only a few exercise political power.
- When only a few exercise political power, they will make policy to favor themselves.
That in some times and places, much wealth is held by a substantial middle class.
- Increase of relative wealth or decrease of population can increase the wealth of many.
- Increase of specialization and complexity of labor can increase the wealth of many.
- Collective refusal to work can increase the income of many, if they are indispensable.
That public policy will favor many where much wealth is held by a substantial middle class.
- Wealth and income is the principal basis of fiscal and military contribution.
- When many have wealth or income, many supply the treasury or the military.
- When many supply the treasury or the military, many will have political leverage.
That as long as the middle class prevails, society will approach democracy.
- Because the only necessary justification for public participation is public contribution.
- Because democracy arises when the middle class conditions contribution on participation.
- Because the middle class tends to increase but not to decrease its rights to participate.
That democracy is the best stage in the sequence of evolution.
- Because the greatest number is most free when the middle class prevails.
- Because the greatest number is most moderate when the middle class prevails.
- Because the greatest number is most happy when the middle class prevails.
That participation in public policy should depend upon contribution to the public welfare.
- Because the only sufficient justification for public participation is public contribution.
- Because the middle class does not willingly subsidize the opulence of the upper class.
- Because the middle class does not willingly subsidize the dependence of the lower class.
That the middle class should be the largest class.
- Because the preservation of democracy depends upon the size of the middle class.
- Because scarcity and struggle will increase if population grows faster than wealth.
- Because only the middle class can absorb class tension between rich and poor.
That the welfare of the middle class should be the highest law.
- Because the preservation of democracy depends upon the security of the middle class.
- Because society departs from democracy whenever the middle class declines.
- Because society will otherwise endure class warfare and the end of democracy.