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Will & Ariel Durant’s Lessons of History

For an excellent summary of world history, it’s hard to beat Will and Ariel Durant’s The Lessons of History.  The following are from their chapter on “Economics and History.”

From an historical perspective, our economic meltdown in 2007—caused by those who control money—is perfectly understandable.  History also clearly describes the disastrous results of income and wealth disparity between rich and poor.

pp. 54-55

History reports that “the men who can manage men manage the men who manage only things, and the men who manage money manage all.”  So the bankers, watching the trends in agriculture, industry, and trade, inviting and directing the  flow of capital, putting our money doubly and trebly to work, controlling loans and interest and enterprise, running great risks to make great gains, rise to the top of the economic pyramid.

From the Medici of Florence and the Fuggers of Augsburg to the Rothschilds of Paris and London and the Morgans of New York, bankers have sat in the councils of governments, financing wars and popes, and occasionally sparking a revolution….

Normally and generally men are judged by their ability to produce—except in war, when they are ranked according to their ability to destroy.

Since practical ability differs from person to person, the majority of such abilities, in nearly all societies, is gathered in a minority of men.  The concentration of wealth is a natural result of this concentration of ability, and regularly recurs in history.  The rate of concentration varies (other factors being equal) with the economic freedom permitted by morals and the laws.  Despotism m ay for a time retard the concentration; democracy, allowing the most liberty, accelerates it.

The relative equality of Americans before 1776 has been overwhelmed by a thousand forms of physical, mental, and economic differentiation, so that the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest is now greater than any time since Imperial plutocratic Rome.

In progressive societies the concentration may reach a point where the strength of number in the many poor rivals the strength of ability in the few rich; then the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealth or by revolution distributing poverty.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s voting record suggests that he was totally unaware of the last paragraph throughout his entire career.  It’s time to replace him with someone who has actually studied history.

Other relevant quotations from Lessons of History are in the file Is Senator DeMint a deliberate liar, or…

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