PANEM ET CIRCENSES.
[TO THE EDITOR Or THE 'SPECTATOR.] S,—May I be allowed to criticize the following in your issue of February 18th ?—" There remains over the problem of the idle and the luxurious rich, but that problem would soon cure itself if the workers were more efficient, more thrifty, and more self-respecting." The same views were implied in an article some few weeks previously, giving a parallel with Roman history. There attention was drawn to the enormous fortunes and luxury of later Romans, but in recapitulating reasons for decay in Rome this one is not included ; also Mr. Strachey, in the final of his series of letters on Socialism some few years back, took up the same arguments—viz., the demoralization of the masses in Rome's later days. Surely I am correct in saying that, in the earlier and best days of Rome, patrician and plebeian worked together. With increasing wealth the patrician faded into the plutocrat, and, falling into luxury, neglected his share of work and responsibility, finally throwing out sops to the masses to keep them quiet. Granted this may be happening in some measure to-day with us ; it then would be a fair argument to say that softness and decay come through the top of the social scale to the bottom. Personally, my own view, based on history as I read it, is that luxury kills—inevitably. I do not place the pro- portion of blame on any one section of the community. Is the Spectator either fair or correct in continually throwing the bulk of the responsibility in this matter on the working class ?—I am, Sir, &c.,
P.S.—I agree that the odds and ends thrown out by "Socialistic legislation" tend to demoralization, but it is a question I often ask myself : Could not a community with experience of past history behind it take hold of itself by con- structive ability, and "remain ripe," or is it inevitable that wealth must bring over-ripeness and decay?
[Luxury is a comparative term. What demoralized the masses in the later Roman Empire was not luxury, but living at other people's expense and not by their own exertions. They became the petted paupers of the State and not free and independent citizens. Their actual luxuries—free bread, free performances in the circus, and free baths—were not very great, unless idleness is considered a luxury.— E). Spectator.]