September 25, 2019

The Lessons of History Notes

TLOH The Lessons of History, by Will and Ariel Durant.

  • Geography mattered a lot more when technology was less developed
    • All ancient civilisations sprung up by rivers, oases
  • History, like biology is governed by selection
  • Freedom and equality are fundamentally contradictory
    • Laissez-faire in 19th century Britain and france
    • Russian revolution in 1917
    • only the man who is below the average in economic ability desires equality; those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom; and in the end superior ability has its way.”
    • The best you can hope for is an approximation of legal justice and equality of opportunity
  • Higher culture /technologically advanced civilisations typically have a lower birthrate
    • In history they collapse and are periodically overrun by their more virile neighbours, e.g. Romans vs Franks and Visigoths
  • In 1968 predicted a resurgence in Roman Catholicism in the UK. Seems Muslim immigration has actually filled this gap today.
  • Gambling, prostitution, premarital sex and charity have been common across history
  • Heaven and utopia are buckets in a well, when one goes down the other goes up”.
  • Religion is lindy
  • The motives of world leaders are largely economic, but the forces governing public opinion are far less so
  • We conclude that the concentration of wealth is natural and inevitable, and is periodically alleviated by violent or peaceable partial redistribution. In this view all economic history is the slow heartbeat of the social organism, a vast systole and diastole of concentrating wealth and compulsive recirculation.”
  • As the sanity of the individual lies in the continuity of his memories, so the sanity of a group lies in the continuity of its traditions.”
  • Since wealth is an order and procedure of production and exchange rather than an accumulation of (mostly perishable) goods, and is a trust (the”credit system“) in men and institutions rather than in the intrinsic value of paper money or checks, violent revolutions do not so much redistribute wealth as destroy it.”


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