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Bread and Circuses

Robert A. Heinlein

Here’s one of my favorite quotes. It took me awhile to track it down because in my mind I had attributed the phrase “bread and circuses” to Thomas Jefferson. I believe Thomas did mention “bread and circuses” somewhere in his writings, but not in this (the current entitlement-heavy political environment) context. Here it is…

A perfect democracy, a ‘warm body’ democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally has no internal feedback for self correction. It depends solely on the wisdom and self-restraint of citizens…which is opposed by the folly and lack of self-restraint of other citizens. What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes his own self-interest as he sees it…which for the majority translates as ‘Bread and Circuses’

Bread and Circuses is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader–the barbarians enter Rome.

Robert Heinlein, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, 227

Of course, Heinlein was not really a democracy fan. He always felt that democracy catered to the least common denominator in society – the dregs (leeches) of society for lack of a better description. His idea that there should be a “responsible” ruling class made up of “superior” citizens is common in many of his books – Starship Troopers especially. It’s not that I disagree with him, but the spirit of democracy is that all sovereign citizens should have an equal say in matters that affect the group as a whole.

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In the end it really is a moot point given the fact that the United States is not a democratic country. We are, in fact, a Constitutional Republic. We elect the so-called “responsible, superior” citizens to represent us.

Wow. How disappointing. Such individuals are so few and far between.

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Comments

    • Kit Karlsruhe
    • December 16, 2013
    Reply

    Why Do People Take Custard Creams So Seriously? Yes and no, but mostly it’s got to be all about kicking the old software out and getting the homage into our ecological stand points. Talking points are very interesting methods of engaging with the Microsoft hardball agencies but, don’t get yourself caught between swordfish in the middle-ground information zones of contract advisory centres, they’ll merely throw you to the lions of cyberspace and gout hospitals..
    Source(s):
    Basic Logic guys, come on yeah?! Red and blue spirals of money and blood; bread and flying circuses..

    View Comment
      • Admin
      • December 16, 2013
      Reply

      /
      0 0
      —– im confused

      View Comment
    • Anonymous
    • December 27, 2013
    Reply

    I No Longer Feel Vested In The Political System, Should I Just Drop Out? Really, should I just embrace the bread and circus feel good culture of the US and not bother to throw my votes away anymore?

    View Comment
      • Admin
      • December 27, 2013
      Reply

      No you should run for office and help change the system

      View Comment
    • Ech
    • December 28, 2013
    Reply

    Is The United States Becoming Like The Roman Empire Before It Collapsed? The “bread and circuses” is social security, medicare, medicaid, social security disability, wic, section 8 housing vouchers for poor, unemployment insurance extended indefinitely, the health care reform bill, public education, excessively high taxes on producers. “Barbarian invaders” are the illegal aliens that flood our borders unrestricted. Wars in far off lands with no clear objectives that are draining our treasury and our financed by borrowing from our enemies.

    View Comment
      • Admin
      • December 28, 2013
      Reply

      Feels that way. Hang on to your hats I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride over the next few years. In the end we will prevail…we have to.

      View Comment
    • Christina
    • December 30, 2013
    Reply

    What Are Some Episodes Of TV Shows About Ancient Rome/Greece/Mythology, Etc? I’m putting together a viewing of some TV episodes that have to do with the ancient world for a group of kids interested in Classics. I have things like Doctor Who’s The Romans, Star Trek’s Bread and Circuses, White Collar’s Ancient History… but I’m looking for more, preferably fun and modern, shows. Any ideas?
    I also found Doctor Who’s The Fires of Pompeii (Doctor Who is killing it right now. Further proof of its awesomeness), and Star Trek’s Who Mourns For Adonis

    View Comment
      • Admin
      • December 30, 2013
      Reply

      Doctor Who- The Pandorica opens and the big bang (series 5)

      View Comment
    • No WAY
    • February 11, 2014
    Reply

    What Is A Modern Day “bread And Circuses” That Conflicts Our World Today!?1?! HELP!!!?

    View Comment
      • Admin
      • February 11, 2014
      Reply

      The expression “bread and circuses” does not refer to a conflict. It refers to a diversionary tactic used by a government to keep people happy and take their attention away from important issues. Ancient Rome kept its lower classes fed and entertained, to make them easier to govern, to keep them from revolting.

      The modern equivalent of “bread and circuses” is the media and the entertainment industry. They keep our attention focused on trivia (like Brittney Spears’ latest shenanigans) instead of really important things like America’s involvement in Iraq. “Reality” shows take our minds off reality, instead of making us think hard about the problems of the real world.

      View Comment
    • Diteorob
    • March 2, 2014
    Reply

    One Of The Old Episodes Of Heartbeat (ITV)featured A Circus. Any Information About It? Thanx?

    View Comment
    1. Reply

      Season 12, Episode 12: “Bread and Circuses”, aired on 29 December 2002, features a circus.

      View Comment
    • Agent WD-40
    • May 11, 2014
    Reply

    Why Do People Value Charisma Over Intelligence? Why do people gravitate towards those who put on a good show, rather those actually have substance?

    View Comment
    1. Reply

      The Romans knew all about it with Bread and Circuses, the problem was when he bread and circuses stopped. Intelligence needs time and we are blinded by the superficial and now

      View Comment
    • St.abbs
    • May 31, 2014
    Reply

    Do You Think That The Government Encourage Heroin Addicts? By giving heroin addicts disability living allowance they are in fact giving them money to buy more heroin. D.L.A is supposed to be used to help people live as near a normal life as possible.
    You can claim jobseekers allowance, work and still be in receipt of D.L.A it is not meanstested

    View Comment
    1. Reply

      More ” bread and circuses”.
      Keep ’em stoned,keep ’em quiet.

      View Comment

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