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  • Writer's pictureDavid de Souza

The Lessons Of History Summary

Updated: May 24, 2022


Mental Models from the book:

'The Lessons of History' can be summarised into 8 mental models:

1. Action & Reaction: Newton's Third Law

  • Every vice was once a virtue. For example, aggressiveness, brutality, greed, and sexual readiness were an effective virtue for hunter-gatherers. During the agricultural revolution, new virtues became helpful and previous virtues became vices. Industriousness was now more advantageous than bravery and thrift more profitable than violence.

2. Availability Heuristic

  • History is rich. A case for anything can be made through selection bias.

3. Comparative Advantage

  • The disparity of wealth is due to disparity of ability. Democracy accelerates the disparity. For example, America had relative equality before 1776 but since then the country has seen an influx of physical, mental, and economic differentiation. The result is a disparity greater than Imperial Rome.

4. Evolution: Adaptation

  • Nature does not agree with our definitions of 'good' or 'bad'. Nature defines good as what survives and bad as which becomes extinct.

5. Evolution: Natural Selection

  • War is natural selection. The ultimate form of human competition. It is a source of ideas, inventions, institutions and nations.

6. Friction

  • War is a constant of history. In the past 3,421 years, only 268 have been without war.

7. Resistance

  • Do not judge and discount the customs which have been developed through experimentation, wisdom, and evolution, over generations. The conservative resisting change is just as valuable as the liberal who proposes change. New ideas should be heard but they should also be tested before being allowed to progress. It is good that the old resist the young and that the young nudge the old. This tension of sexes, race, and class comes with a creative strength, development and movement of all.

8. Trust

  • Violent revolutions do not redistribute wealth they destroy it. Wealth and money is based on trust in people and institutions, rather than intrinsic value. Land may be redistributed but over time, because of inequalities a new minority will form. The only true revolution is the enlightenment of the mind and the improvement of character.


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