An observation on bread and circuses

Whatever activities a hierarchy undertakes initially to bond a population to itself… often thereafter becomes de rigueur, so that further bonding activities are at higher cost, with little or no additional benefit to the hierarchy. The appeasement of urban mobs presents the classic illustration of this principle. Any level of activities undertaken to appease such populations – the bread and circuses syndrome – eventually becomes the expected minimum. An increase in the cost of bread and circuses, which seems to have been required in Imperial Rome to legitimize such things as the accession of a new ruler or his continued reign, may bring no increased return beyond a state of non-revolt.

–Joseph Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies