The first lesson of history is competition

Biology and History

The first lesson of history is that “life is competition”; the second is that “life is selection.”

The Lessons of History, Chapter III

By:  Will & Ariel Durant


Out natural biological differences produce material inequality.  All efforts to eliminate that inequality through force necessarily destroy freedom.  That is the dilemma of our current age and every previous one. 


In competing for food, mates and power, some succeed while others fail.   Since nature didn’t read the “… American Declaration of Independence ... we are all born unfree and unequal: subject to our physical and psychological heredity, and to the customs and traditions of our group; diversely endowed in health and strength, in mental capacity and qualities of character. … Inequality is not only natural and inborn, it grows with the complexity of civilization.”

Nature laughs at our efforts to unite freedom and equality in our utopias.  “For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails, the other dies.”  When men are free, natural inequality increases as the more capable use their abilities to improve their condition. “To check the growth of inequality, liberty must be sacrificed, … only the man who is below the average in economic ability desires equality; those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom; … Utopias of equality are biologically doomed, …”  The best one can hope for is something close to “… equality of legal justice and educational opportunity.”

(See also Equality and Inequality)


There is no way around the reality that life is a competitive venture in which those with greater ability inevitably rise to the top.  As much as we might want it otherwise, the reality is that there will always be people who naturally rise, and there will always be a “1%”.The question is, will they be ruthless dictators who oppress others or wealthy entrepreneurs who become wealthy by creating more abundance and improving the lives of others?

Efforts to create material (as opposed to legal) equality by force, through exercise of government power or revolution, always destroy individual freedom.  When people are free, their inherent natural inequality will always result in some degree of material inequality.  The best we can have equality under the law, that protects the rights of all from abuse of power by the wealthy and the political elite.

People must choose between the results of two competing ideologies:  individual freedom or forced material equality.  The key to choosing wisely is understanding the likely results of implementing these ideologies based on real life experience in the laboratory of history.

(See:  Equality and Inequality for more information)

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