I’ve just finished The Lessons of History by Will & Ariel Durant winners of The Pulitzer Prize. This piece is a short 100-page book highlighting the most significant ideas from the deeper works that the Durants completed about history. It highlights key ideas from all facets of history and does a fantastic job tying back examples from various civilizations under each segment of history. There are core concepts that highlight how our government, economic, and social conditions have swung like a pendulum back forth throughout time.
The state of human civilization is in constant flux as the dawn of Greek and Roman times brought a democracy that eventually fell back into a monarch system. The prevailing economic conditions have changed in much the same way with free markets that eventually swung into more government control. This book was written in the 1960s and much of the economic and government discussion was around which system would prevail capitalism or communism. The authors chose not to pick a side but leave the interpretation in the middle where it seems likely neither form in absolute will win. The pointing to how Capitalism has adopted tenants of communism to create the welfare state and how in communist countries more free markets have prevailed. As we extrapolate that thought out into modern times we can see how this has played out with communist China operating more like a Capitalist society and in the US continuation of government programs.
In this book, there are thought-provoking ideas that remind you of how far we have come as a society and the cyclical nature. As civilization progresses we continue to iterate but one of the more interesting quotes from the text is a quote from their writings of The Age of Louis XIV, p720 – “The men who can manage men manage the men who can only manage things, and the men who can manage money manage all.” This quote in particular resonated with me as you think about how it applies in the age of automation and increasing technological advances. Many of the middle management jobs that exist today will be automated out and machines will begin to manage machines and perhaps fewer people will manage those machines. The ultimate form of management is who manages the money that funds everything else.
At a micro-level, that is the very reason this site exists is to help every individual be educated in basic finance in order for them to manage their own lives. If you can take financial ownership of your own life and learn the skills necessary to make finance work for you then it is possible for you to create the life you desire. If every child at a young age is educated on the basic principles of finance and truly understands the most simple facets of earning, saving, and investing it would change the financial future of the entire globe. Imagine the impact it would have on the economy, politics, and society if people truly saved for unforeseen expenses and understood the power of compounding interest. It would unlock potential that typically only the wealthy and most educated group of individuals have access. It could create a more stable economy and democracy.