Lessons Of History by Ariel Durant and Will Durant (Book Summary)

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Why would freedom lead to greater inequality?

Big questions like this can be answered by history.

History is not only a record of what has happened so far, but it is also a great way to understand how and why.

Geography has a big influence in civilization, but it declines as technology advances.

Life is a competition and humans are born unequal.

Inequality is natural and reducing it can only come at the cost of freedom.

As society becomes more complex, our inherent inequalities become even greater. This is because complex societies have a greater demand for people with specialized abilities, and this will mean that the only way to create more equality will be to restrict freedom. The freer people are, the more unequal they become.

The advancement of a civilization has nothing to do with race. Civilization is not a product of race, but rather a product of geography. This can be proved by the fact that advanced cultures have existed in all parts of the globe. China, Egypt, Rome, Greece, Incas, Mayans, Indians are some examples.

Our personalities, morals and social customs are a product of the time and culture we are raised in.

Human evolution has been social, not biological.

Cultural innovation occurs as a result of trial and error. Innovative new ideas are put into society, if the majority likes them, they will follow them.

Ethical values are a result of historical conditions and they change over time. During the Industrial revolution, unity was not as important as individualism. Our modern moral standards are still subject to change. It’s possible that in a century, people will have different opinions about what is right and wrong.

Concentration of wealth is natural and can only be prevented by compulsive redistribution. Life is a competition, so the more skills you have, the better you can compete. This results naturally in the minority of the people gathering most of the wealth. However, when this reaches a critical point, redistribution occurs through several forms.

Socialist experiments have failed in the past, but may work if paired properly with capitalism. A more balanced approach seems appropriate adjusted to conditions.

Democracy is the best form of government, but it is fragile and requires an educated population to function correctly. If a country is threatened by a war or economic crisis, it’s easier for an individual to take advantage and rise to power. Education is the only defense against this. People can only resist corrupt leaders if they are educated enough to know what is going on exactly.

War has been a constant throughout history and peace is unnatural. Through recorded human history, only 10% of humanity’s time has been free of war. This is due to the fact that Countries behave like individuals, they compete for more resources. Other reasons include issues that are too complex to be resolved by diplomatic channels, so war is the alternative.

Civilizations always face challenges, but it is how they handle them that determines whether they flourish or decay (just like individuals).

History repeats itself, civilizations go through the same cycles: they begin, they flourish, decline, and disappear (just like individuals). But there are no guarantees that the same patterns will prevail as complexity increases, new scenarios can be possible specially with technology advancements.

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