Whether at Byzantium during the Nika Riots or in bread and circuses Rome, when the public expects government to provide security rather than the individual to become autonomous through a growing economy, then there grows a collective lethargy. I think that is the message of Juvenal’s savage satires about both mobs and the idle rich. Fourth-century Athenian literature is characterized by forensic law suits, as citizens sought to sue each other, or to sue the state for sustenance, or to fight over inheritances.
The subtext of Petronius’s Satyricon is an affluent, childless, often underemployed citizenry seeking inheritances and lampooning the productive classes that produce enough excess for the wily to get by just fine without working....
Western moral literature, from Horace to Thackeray, focuses on the vanity of the rich who think that a greedy heir won’t really inherit their hard-won or suspect riches, or that their always aging hips and knees will always so briskly power them up the monumental stairs of their colossal homes, or that a fifth sailboat or another 1000 acres will at last end the boredom. But the rub is not whether they are rich but whether they are idle, whether they send a message that affluence can make life better, rather than affluence is inevitably corrupting. In Suetonius’s Twelve Caesars, the theme is not just imperial decadence and cruelty, but also the blind passions of the mob that the elite so cynically manipulate for their own useless privilege and nonsensical indulgence.Fortunately, he has a remedy to propose.
"A new tax code, simple rates, few deductions, everybody pays something; new entitlement reform, less benefits, later retirement; a smaller government, a larger private sector; a different popular culture that honors character rather than excess — all that is not, and yet is, impossible to envision. It will only transpire when the cries of the self-interested anguished are ignored."
That sounds right to me.