I’ve just read this super interesting book on history.
Already the fact that the book is only 100 pages long and it still takes a stab at the whole human history is a surprise.
Well, the books is worth its weight in “something”, maybe gold would still be a tad too much.
Anyhow, let this post be a short list of things I caught within the centipages of this marvelous piece written by the Durant couple.
There’s a brilliant explanation on why freedom is the direct opposite of equality. Freedom means that you allow all the small differences to accumulate. This means that a minority of population will first gain the majority of abilities, hence also the money, whichever currency you trade with, either money, power, influence, knowledge, whichever.
This means that concentration happens regardless of the system you impose, be it capitalism or communism or anything else. The concentration can still be oposed and more emphasis can be given to equality if certian measures are upheld.
A revolution is not a good mechanism to establish equality. The reason is that wealth doesn’t reside in immovables, true wealth is in organisation, skills, ability to create. Wealth is transient and revolutions don’t spread wealth, they spread poverty. A revoltion confiscates immovable, money, food, supplies, etc., but that is not the source of wealth. True distribution of wealth is achieved only through enlightened leaders, such as Solon in Athens in 572 b.c., or Augustus who established Pax Romana from 30 b.c. to 180 a.d.
Democracy is not the end stage. It’s just a part of the monarcy-aristocracy-democracy-dictatorship cycle that has been turning forever and is turning again. Let’s say that the power resides with a king. A smart one. The best way to preserve the monarchy is to pass his rule not to his son, but to the most able person he can find. This can happen a few times in a row, but inevitably, the offspring will find a way to get in front of the line, and unless they are capable, mostly they’re not, deterioration starts. Power shifts from the king, and moves into those most able within a close circle of the king, the aristocrats. The problem there is that this power is informal, very hard to keep. So the power deteriorates further until it moves toward the rich. They see that monarchy doesn’t work anymore, however the also can’t elect themselves, people don’t buy into an oligarchy too easily. So the rich=influential establish a democracy, the system in which every vote is equal, but the ability to collect those votes is not. Democracy works, but is always under pressure, with the overarching pressure being the concentration of wealth in a small group. Finally when the concentration is big enough democracy breaks, either through a revolution or directly, both leading towards dictatorship. The dictatorship then eventually evolves towards a monarcy. The cycle is closed.
Whereas on one side a minority attracts the majority of abilities (and of course money and power), the majority attracts ingnorance. The wider the gap, the more ignorant the majority become. Personally I never consider anyone an absolute idiot, however the problem is that the people in the majority are not stimulated to not be ignorant, so they get more and more idiotic. Want proof? Open any news site in the world right now and tell me that we’re not becoming a society of idiots.
The only way to avoid ignorance and hence idiocy is through personal enlightment.
Art becomes becomes bizarre once the master is gone. With a master patron, a pope, a king, even an authoritorian circle, art serves the purpose to please the master. The master is often very clear as to what is good and what is bad art. Abstract art would never pass as good art with Louis XIV, not because he was absolutist, but because anyone can see most abstract art as being ridiculous. In a society without a master, where media serve the ignorant majority, art becomes obscene, it wants to shock, perturb. Is that art? It is, by all means, but it’s also a very clear sign of the times.