Bread and Circuses

I was driving back to the office from an appointment today and heard on the radio that there were demonstrations in Athens this morning in sympathy with the Italians against proposed austerity measures.   I immediately started to reflect on the number of demonstrations/riots in Europe in the past few months because of budget tightening measures necessitated by the rapidly failing social states of Europe.   The first phrase that came to my mind was how angry people get when their bread and circuses get reduced which got me to thinking of where the phrase Bread and Circuses came from.   The phrase comes from the Roman playwright Juvenal who wrote in his satires that-

Now that no one buys our votes, the public has long since cast off its cares; the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things—-Bread and Games!

There have been riots in Britain over student tuition, in France over raising the retirement age to 62, in Greece over entitlement reform, In Spain about budget reform, in Ireland about budget reform, in Portugal against budget reform as well,  even Germany (sorry this story is in German, apparently it is not important enough for an English outlet to pick it up) and the US have seen their share of demonstrations over entitlements.

What kills me about all this is that the people protesting are for the most part as big a part of the problem as any of the government officials are.   All of these places are democratic, so the people voted the governments that enacted these social spending plans into power in the first place.   Now they are blaming that same government for not being able to afford what they wanted in the first place?  How retarded is that?  I am sure we will see more of this come to the US as people realize the gravy train can’t last forever.   I am guessing we will see it sooner rather than later as the fruits and costs of Health Care Reform start to become more apparent.

Anyway, I just thought it was ironic and a sign of how much things have not changed since antiquity that such a phrase is still used in its original context almost two-thousand years later.

1 thought on “Bread and Circuses”

  1. One lesson it provides us should be that giving a large public benefit all at once will be appreciated more than the same benefit granted gradually, and taking away a benefit all at once will make politicians despised much more than a benefit removed gradually.

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