Monday, September 27, 2010

Bread and Circuses

In the later part of the Roman Empire, the roman government spent fortunes providing bread and entertainment to the masses. This was not out of the goodness of their hearts. One enraged person can be ignored, but riotous masses have a way of ruining everything when they get past a certain amount of frustrated. Namely, they tend to take what they need to survive by force. And then set things on fire just to show how truly pissed off they are.
In fact, in the countries where communist revolutions succeeded, I've noticed three common factors:
1. A useless and insufferable aristocratic class
2. A large body of intellectuals
3. Starving and enraged peasant masses
The local communist party recruits its main body from the intellectuals, and makes promises to the peasants along the lines of bread, circuses, and employment, and blames everything on the aristocrats. Which they then have killed as a way of solving those problems. Allthough Karl Marx was still thousands of years in the future, as was his idea of communism, Rome was trying to prevent this sort of thinking, which wouldn't have ended well for the aristocrats. And worse for the emperor himself, who was usually at the forefront of helping out.
A good economist can draw a modern lesson from this, I'm sure. And probably something lest costly than free bread and stab shows.

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