will and ariel durant - the lessons of history - 2014 - narrated

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Review of the 1968 book by Will and Ariel Durant, 'The Lessons of History'

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By Edward J. Dodson

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“It repeats many ideas that we, or others before us, have already expressed; our aim is not originality but inclusiveness; we offer a survey of human experience, not a personal revelation.”

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“secret predilection in [the] choice of materials, and in the nuances of … adjectives.”

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“conclusions from the past to the future are made more hazardous than ever by the acceleration of change.”

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“Every day the sea encroaches somewhere upon the land, or the land upon the sea; cities disappear under the water… Mountains rise and fall in the rhythm of emergence and erosion; rivers swell and flood, or dry up, or change their course; valleys become deserts, and isthmuses become straits.”

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“Will [the course of empire] continue across the Pacific, exporting European and American industrial and commercial techniques to China, as formerly to Japan? Will Oriental fertility, working with the latest Occidental technology, bring the decline of the West?”

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“millenniums through which our forebears had to chase and fight and kill in order to survive.”

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“passion for quantity as prerequisite to the selection of quality.”

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“ To check the growth of inequality, liberty must be sacrificed,”

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“are the wisdom of generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history.”

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“It is good that the old should resist the young, and that the young should prod the old; out of this tension, as out of the strife of the sexes and the classes, comes a creative tensile strength, a stimulated development, a secret and basic unity and movement of the whole.”

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“The growing awareness of man’s miniscule place in the cosmos has furthered the impairment of religious belief.”

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“temporary acceptance of Communism as … religion.”

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“We observe that the invading barbarians found Rome weak because the agricultural population which had formerly supplied the legions with hardy and patriotic warriors fighting for land had been replaced by slaves laboring listlessly on vast farms owned by one man or a few.”

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“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.”

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“I am still a socialist, but with some cautions. I do not relish the control of economic lives by vast corporations. To keep the benefits and check the power of these mastodons I would favor public ownership of natural resources, including the land and all its minerals, fuels, and other subsoil wealth; also of transportation, banking, insurance, and medical and hospital care.”

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“He issued … an Edictum de pretiis , which denounced monopolists for keeping goods from the market to raise prices, and set maximum prices and wages for all important articles and services. Extensive public works were undertaken to put the unemployed to work, and food was distributed gratis, or at reduced prices, to the poor. ...”

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“The government – which already owned most mines, quarries, and salt deposits – brought nearly all major industries and guilds under detailed control.”

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“The fear of capitalism has compelled socialism to widen freedom, and the fear of socialism has compelled capitalism to increase equality.”

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IS THIS CAPITALISM?

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“He [Hume] rejected the view of the French physiocrats that all taxes fall ultimately upon land; they fall at last, he believed, upon labor, for … ‘everything in the world is purchased by labor’.”

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“…by a process begun in the sixteenth century, most of the ‘commons’ had been enclosed by the owners, and the peasants found it hard to make ends meet. There was no serfdom left, and no formal feudal dues; but enterprising landlords, and city merchants investing in land, were farming on a larger scale, with more capital, better implements, greater skill, and wider markets than were available to yeomen tilling their narrow areas. …”

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“The fatter landlords were buying up the thinner tracts; the small homestead … was giving place to larger farms …; the farmer was becoming a tenant or hired ‘hand’.”

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“The natural concentration of wealth was in some measure mitigated by taxation and organized charity.”

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“[I]n most instances the effects achieved by the revolution would apparently have come without it through the gradual compulsion of economic developments.”

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“The rebellion was eased and quickened by an abundance of free land and a minimum of legislation. Men who owned the soil they tilled, and (within the limits of nature) controlled the conditions under which they lived, had an economic footing for political freedom; their personality and character were rooted in the earth.”

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“Many of these formative conditions have disappeared. …Free land is gone, though homeownership spreads – with a minimum of land.”

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“And all of this has come about not … through the perversity of the rich, but through the impersonal fatality of economic development, and through the nature of man. Every advance in the complexity of the economy puts an added premium upon superior ability, and intensifies the concentration of wealth, responsibility, and political power.”

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“the failure of … political or intellectual leaders to meet the challenges of change.”

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“may compel a government to choose between enfeebling the economy with a dole and running the risk of riot and revolution.”

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“A failure of leadership may allow a state to weaken itself with internal strife. At the end of the process a decisive defeat in war may bring a final blow, or barbarian invasion from without may combine with barbarism welling up from within to bring the civilization to a close.”

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“Have we given ourselves more freedom than our intelligence can digest?”

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“the transmission of our mental, moral, technical, and aesthetic heritage as fully as possible to as many as possible, for the enlargement of man’s understanding, control, embellishment, and enjoyment of life.”

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“One gift of age is reconciliation. You learn to accept and forgive. You perceive that since the basic challenges of life remain the same from generation to generation, from century to century, our basic responses remain the same; consequently progress repeatedly improves our means without altering our ends. …”

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“You don’t expect human nature to change appreciably in the foreseeable future, and you are grateful that it is not worse. …After studying history for sixty years, and coming out of it with my hair singed with wars, massacres, Inquisitions, superstitions, famines, and plagues, I am grateful that I have not yet been burned at the stake. …”

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“Every effort has been made to poison me with smog, antibiotics, and radiation, and I may be canceled out at any moment by some marvelous bomb; but I will take my chances with the present as against the past. I believe that the same intelligence that split the atom will find some way of ending our blundering and blustering hostilities with the mutual consideration and brave compromises indispensable to peace.”

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THE END

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