A fairytale or a take on reality?
Once upon a time, there was a powerful ruling family in a kingdom far far away, let's call them the Foodworthys. To most of their subjects, the consumers, they were a benign family who were on their side and only levied the minimum taxes necessary. There was also a group of subjects known as the feirmors, whose job was to produce the food.
Behind the public image, the Foodworthys were actually very greedy. But they were also very clever. So in order to protect their clean image they employed a number of generals. Their job was to keep the consumers apart from the feirmors, to pit the various sets of feirmors against each other so as to ensure there was no opportunity for a united uprising, and to make sure the feirmors kept the strict rules.
Via their generals, the Foodworthys continuously told the feirmors that they could curry favour by doing such and such a thing, but the rules kept changing to ensure their continued subjugation so their status never improved.
The Foodworthys knew they weren't going to run out of food because most of the feirmors had no other option but to sell to them, and they had no difficulty in justifying their harsh stance to themselves because they knew the feirmors were getting a cheque in the post from distant relations.
For their role, the generals were paid a set fee by the Foodworthys and this gave them a very comfortable living.
Every night after supper when the Foodworthys retired to the smoking room for a brandy and a cigar, everyone slapped everyone else on the back and they all slept soundly in their beds.