Bread and Circuses

 

Elections are here.

The America of my time line is a laboratory example of what can happen to democracies, what has eventually happened to all perfect democracies throughout all histories. 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 A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein was a science fiction writer along with Isaac Azimov and Arthur C. Clarke were considered the “Big Three” of science fiction writers. He received 7 Hugo Awards presented for the best achievements in science fiction or fantasy works. He was described early on by Asimov as a “flaming liberal” but he went through a conversion displayed in his later novels and short stories. He recognized the reformation that the country was experiencing and he was critical about it. As a science fiction writer you not only try to envision and predict the future but to notice societal trends. You then utilize those trends to estimate the impact on society.

Bread and circuses was not a new concept, throughout civilization those in power have sought to prevent revolt, as well as distract the populace by ensuring they were fed and entertained. HIstory is littered with invasions, wars and conflicts over resources that one group had and another lacked and desired. Diplomacy was useful but one thing about diplomacy was the agreements rarely produced lasting resolutions, in many cases they only set up or were the cause of the nest conflict. The UN is ineffective because of this, we ignore it at our peril.

With the advent of democracy or representative governments as the de facto mode of governance in the world, particularly Western Civilization this is even more important now. The shift of power or the appearance of a shift from the centralized absolute power of the hereditary monarchs which prevailed until the 18th century to the representative democracies or constitutional monarchies of today has meant that those who can provide the bread and circuses for their people will continue to rule.

Today giving people what they want, though not necessarily what they need dominates every election in this country. Offering of bread ( free health care,  welfare, housing, higher minimum wages, college tuition, etc.) or  the circus(legal marijuana, abortion on demand, gay marriage, immigration, school reforms, etc.) decide elections. Little if any consideration is given to the long-term consequences of what is offered or given. Giving people what they want or convincing enough that what is offered is what they really want is used to gain, expand and maintain power by both sides.

Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.”
Robert A. Heinlein

There is plenty of evidence of this; You have Union groups that force non-Union members to pay fees. You have gay groups that have managed to get the government to force others to host their weddings, make their wedding cake, take their photos despite the religious objections of those people. Now as has been done in Europe a couple is trying, with local government help, to have a Reverend officiated a gay marriage or face fines or jail.

We see this in the opposition to Voter Id laws; These laws are almost universal around the world, yet in US they are bitterly opposed. One of the main arguments is that minorities will be disenfranchised by these laws. As the witnesses for the DOJ recently testified:

It’s also the case that — well, yes, so it would, empirically more likely affect African Americans. Also, understanding within political science, that people who register to vote the closer and closer one gets to Election Day tend to be less sophisticated voters, tend to be less educated voters, tend to be voters who are less attuned to public affairs. That also tells me from the literature of political science that there are likely to be people who will end up not registering and not voting. People who correspond to those factors tend to be African Americans, and, therefore, that’s another vehicle through which African Americans would be disproportionately affected by this law.

Translation we need same day registration and voting because blacks are too ignorant or civic minded to register to vote beforehand. The words disparate impact, discrimination, privilege are used to hammer others who do not agree to consent with their views. If that fails threats of violence in the form of riots or physical violence are used. This was evident in 2010 during the Trayvon Martin Case, that forced the State to press charges against George Zimmerman, will it work this year in the attempts to charge Darren Wilson in Ferguson?

There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”
Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

The effects of battling Global Warming are starting to felt in this nation, despite the fact that the World has not warmed in over 18 years. Policies implemented to combat CO2 production the bogeyman in the AGW theory, has meant that people are paying more for electricity and heating costs. In healthcare, the new Obamacare law is now also making healthcare unaffordable for many, the opposite of the law’s intent, while not denting the number of uninsured.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”
Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

The Federal government has been printing money at a furious pace, this policy of Quantitative easing (QE), has meant that the rich have gotten richer while those in the Middle has stagnated. Trillions borrowed to pay for TARP, Porkulus and the millions now in the welfare system will mean that future generations will be socked with a huge bill to pay.

The middle class is the hardest hit, while the poor receive assistance from the government to ease or shield them from the results of such policies and the rich can afford it, it is the middle class which bears the brunt. Obamacare has truly become a tax-hit on  many families who are now paying thousands more in healthcare while receiving little or in many cases less coverage or benefits.

Food prices which is not used to calculate inflation, have soared. Ground beef prices are almost 40% higher than 4 years ago, bacon is twice as expensive as 4 years ago. In some instances the prices increases have been hidden by smaller packaging. A 5lb bag of sugar is now 4lb for the same or higher price. 16oz cans now contain 12oz, etc. But even this can’t hide that the cost have risen while wages have not.

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

Robert A. Heinlein

This is the reality we face, history has proven this time and time again. We can ignore history and keep saying to ourselves that we will get it right this time, until this time comes and goes and then we realized were did we go wrong? The answers are and have always been in front of us. We keep trying to re-invent the wheel but forgetting how the original used to work. Petty differences are the circuses used to distract us. Petty new rights are the bread used to attracts us, yet neither makes the wheel work any better or go any faster but boy can they be use to maintain their power.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Robert A. Heinlein

Amen.

 

 

 

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