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Bread & Circuses: Greece vs US Riots

Posted By Barry Ritholtz On May 12, 2010 @ 10:00 am In Current Affairs,Psychology | Comments Disabled

Greek’s weak productivity and profligacy now threatens the early retirement age, extensive unemployment benefits and guaranteed vacation time of the Greek worker. While US laborers would consider the Greek system to be more akin to summer camp than actual labor, the Greek population is rioting in the streets.

In the US, the reaction to the real estate bust, credit collapse and market crash of 2008-09 was much more modest. As the nation crept up to the edge of the abyss, there was investor panic and widespread fear, but the populace in the states remained remarkably placid.

It wasn’t always this way. Prior to the current era, Americans did occasionally take to the streets. 600 Iowa farmers abducted a judge who was doing mortgage foreclosures, threatening to lynch him. The governor declared martial law, and troops were sent to quell the riots.

Have a look at these 1930s articles from the NYT:

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We are now defined by endless distractions, and 1000s of channels of hi def, flat screen, home theater. We have plenty of food. The nation remains wealthy, even if that wealth is unevenly distributed. Our never resting entertainment industry has managed to thoroughly distract us from our problems — perhaps too well.

The Romans had it right — bread and circuses are all politicians need to keep the population complacent and themselves in power.

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URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Iowa-judge.png

[2] Image: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Iowa-Martial-Law.png

[3] Image: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/IowaTroops.png

[4] Image: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/US-Map-of-Ferment-.png

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