“The Lessons of History” by Will and Ariel Durant

Nature smiles at the union of freedom and equality in our utopias. For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when on prevails the other dies. Leave men free, and their natural inequalities will multiply almost geometrically. To check the growth of inequality, liberty must be sacrificed, as in Russia after 1917. Even when repressed, inequality grows; only the man who is below the average in economic ability desires equality; those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom; and in the end superior ability has its way.

So the conservative who resists change is as valuable as the radical who proposes it – perhaps as much more valuable as roots are more vital than the grafts. It is good that new ideas should be heard, for the sake of the few that can be used; but it is also good that new ideas should be compelled to go through the mill of objection, opposition, and contumely; this is the trial heat which innovations must survive before being allowed to enter the human race. 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.

Year by year the role of Western governments in the economy rises, the share of the private sector declines. Capitalism retains the stimulus of private property, free enterprise, and competition, and produces a rich supply of goods; high taxation, falling heavily upon the upper classes, enables the government to provide for a self-limited population unprecedented services in education, health, and recreation. The fear of capitalism has compelled socialism to widen freedom, and the fear of socialism has compelled capitalism to increase equality.

As the sanity of the individual lies in the continuity of his memories, so the sanity of a group lies in the continuity of its tradition; in either case, a break in the chain invites a neurotic reaction.

That though men cannot be equal, their access to education and opportunity can be made more nearly equal … A right is not a gift of God or nature but a privilege which it is good for the group that individuals should have.

It is pitiful (says the general) that so many young men die in battle, but more of them die in automobile accidents than in way, and man of them riot and rot for lack of discipline; they need an outlet for their combativeness, their adventurousness, their weariness with prosaic routine; if they must die sooner or later why not let them die for their country in the anesthesia of battle and the aura of glory.

Our capacity for fretting is endless, and no matter how many difficulties we surmount, how many ideals we realize, we shall always find an excuse for being magnificently miserable; there is a stealthy pleasure in rejecting mankind or the universe as unworthy of our approval.