Score: 96/100 (9.6 out of 10)
Well, here is our first heavy-hitter (9.6-rating) of the season! Ralph L. Bayrer has probably become one of our favorite non-fiction authors. His previous book, “Eternal Vigilance,” tied for first-place in all of non-fiction books this past winter. Bayrer seems to be a staunch realist with ideas that are fundamental to the American way of life, emphasizing free enterprise, lower taxes, less government regulation, and an acknowledgment of human nature. These are things that, strangely, are becoming less popular today as common sense becomes less and less common. These are systems that are eroding by the minute, it seems. Bayrer gently grasps the reader by the lapels and reminds them that there's a reason why the United States of America, for all its flaws, is the most prosperous and wealthy nation that has ever existed on this earth. Also, he presents the warning that this may all change for the worse if America continues to surrender to the whims of idealism and seeks to become more like the rest of the world than being true to itself.
So, where do we begin with this great book? For one, the writing is excellent. Bayrer's previous book was a runner-up for “Best Writing” this past winter, and this book is no different. Even with a focus on facts, the writing is no less eloquent. And speaking of facts, the author presents incredible and interesting information ranging the full span of human existence. We get to learn about how societies evolved from the stone age to the present, adapting to various changes including weather, geography, political/diplomatic relations, the advent of socio-political & economic ideologies like communism, warfare, resource availability, etc. We also get to learn a bit of the history of different civilizations including the Indus Valley people, the Chinese, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Arabs, the sub-Saharan Africans, the British, and, of course, the Americans.
Something that stands out in all of these examples is that you can see that the more despotic, tyrannical, and controlling a government become, the closer it is to collapse. The freer a people are (short of anarchy), the more prosperous a nation, kingdom, or empire usually is.
You can look at the unhappiest and poorest countries on earth and see the ill effects that a tyrannical government and socialism/communism have had. Now, granted, is it possible that at least some of this difficulty is the result of poor relations with the more affluent western nations leading to harsher sanctions and poorer trade? Yes. But that supports rather than detracts from the point. North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and Venezuela are listed as nations that continue to struggle because they had held on to broken or antiquated systems, some of which have never been proven work to begin with.
Something unique about this book is that it also chooses to look at the cultural aspects of these societies, most notably their religions. This might be where the book gets the most iffy for some readers, but it's worth considering. There are certain cultures and religions that frown upon accumulating wealth as a major aspect of one's life. For example, Buddhism proposes that materialism is detrimental as a form of attachment. In that belief system, attachment leads to suffering. For a long time in some societies that embraced Buddhism, like China and Japan, the merchant class was among the lower classes.
To many Christians, money is a kind of evil or a necessary evil as they are warned that one can't serve both money and God, and there are constant warnings in the Bible about wealth being corruptible.
At the same time, Christians and Buddhists alike are encouraged to not be sedentary and to work for a living, whether to produce food or make the money to purchase the food. Christians (and also Muslims, as also covered in this book) are heavily encouraged to donate to charity and to tithe their earnings. So, money can't be all bad even from a religious perspective.
It is interesting to read this slight critique of religion from Bayrer, who seems to have a more Conservative or Republican leaning, as many in those camps tend to be among the more religious in society. That's not to say that Bayrer is incorrect in his assertions, just that it's interesting to note. There is also a somewhat odd overview of evolution. No, not the evolution of culture or economics but actual evolution—the Darwin, survival-of-the-fittest kind. But, again, it's not there just for the sake of being there, it's there to serve a point: that humanity changes and adapts to circumstances, having a sort of “life-cycle.” The key to all that is, are we as a society going to try to stay in the life-cycle of thriving or the life-cycle of dying?
All in all, this is a very educational and worthwhile read by an incredible author.
Check it out!