Nothing to Envy PDF Summary

Nothing to Envy PDFOrdinary Lives in North Korea

Care to learn a bit more about the history of the most mysterious country in the world?

If so, welcome to North Korea, possibly the only developed nation “that has fallen out of the developed world.”

Barbara Demick shares her deep knowledge of the country in “Nothing to Envy.”

Who Should Read “Nothing to Envy”? And Why?

Nothing to Envy” is a rather curious book, written somewhat in the manner of Dave Eggers’ “What Is the What. Meaning: it is a nonfiction book, but it has numerous fictional elements, if not in terms of facts, certainly in terms of style.

So, even though it’s based from cover to cover on Barbara Demick’s interviews with 100 real-life North Korean defectors – and especially focuses its attention on six of them – you can read much of it as if a fact-based novel.

Which, we believe, makes the book appealing to both historians and fiction-lovers alike.

Needless to add, those interested in North Korea’s past and current ways of life and those who want to learn more about the destinies of its defectors will enjoy this book the most.

If you are one of them, be sure to check out “Without You, There Is No Us” and “Escape from Camp 14,” two books which share many similarities with Demick’s.  

About Barbara Demick

Barbara DemickBarbara Demick is an American journalist, the Beijing bureau chief of the “Los Angeles Times” ever since a decade ago.

A correspondent for “Philadelphia Inquirer” in Eastern Europe between 1993 and 1997, Demick first reached prominence as the author of a series of articles following the lives of the regular people in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War.

These formed the basis for her first book, “Logavina Street,” which was published in 1996. Though published a decade and a half later, “Nothing to Envy” is Demick’s second book.

“Nothing to Envy PDF Summary”

If you look at satellite photographs of the far east by night,” writes Barbara Demick in the first sentence of “Nothing to Envy,” you’ll see a large splotch curiously lacking in light. this area of darkness is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

In case you haven’t seen one so far – and you wonder if Demick is exaggerating a bit – please, be our guest and see if you can find North Korea on this satellite photograph.

The strangest thing: this wasn’t always the case! And it’s not like North Korea never had an electrical network. In fact, just half a century ago, it’s GDP per capita – which (never forget) doesn’t mean quality of life as well – was about the same as that of its southern neighbor, the other Korea.

So, what happened in the meantime?

How did North Korea fell so spectacularly from grace?

Well, the truth is that its rise was kind of peculiar to begin with. North Korea was nothing more but an unimportant Japanese colony for the most part of the first half of the twentieth century.

Then came the Second World War and, then, the actual creation of two separate countries on the Korean Peninsula.

The reason?

Because the Americans and the Soviets said so!

In order to appease the Soviet Union, two American officers (Charles Bonesteel and Dean Rusk) divided the Korean peninsula along the 38th parallel for basically no reason whatsoever other than the fact that this parallel neatly divided the peninsula in half.

Three years later, both Koreas were allowed independence by the two superpowers, but neither of the two governments (the communist one led by Kim Il-sung and the capitalist fronted by Syngman Rhee) thought it just to control merely one part of the peninsula.

So, incited and helped by the Soviets, North Korea tried to occupy South Korea just two years after these two became countries, which provoked a counter-reaction by the United States and 15 other nations.

Three years later, the Korean War ended achieving next to nothing: the border barely moved in either direction, the 3 million victims – futile symbols of the absurdity of one of history’s most meaningless conflicts.

After the war, Kim Il-sung divided the supposedly egalitarian communist society into three provisional categories: the selected loyal core, the indecisive few and the numerous and numerous hostiles.

Every North Korean citizen had to go through eight background checks before being assigned a certain status – or songbun – according to which he or she would later receive adequate responsibilities or even amounts of food.

Just like most of the other communist countries, Kim Il-sung introduced the cult of personality and an elaborate system of persistent ideological training which lasts to this day:

North Korea invites parody. We laugh at the excesses of the propaganda and the gullibility of the people. But consider that their indoctrination began in infancy, during the fourteen-hour days spent in factory day-care centers; that for the subsequent fifty years, every song, film, newspaper article, and billboard was designed to deify Kim Il-sung; that the country was hermetically sealed to keep out anything that might cast doubt on Kim Il-sung’s divinity. Who could possibly resist?

North Korea’s official state ideology is called Juche and is a variant of Stalin’s revision of Lenin’s original idea of a world communist revolution. It isn’t merely “socialism in one country,” but it’s basically “socialism in only one country.”

Namely, Kim Il-sung – who developed the ideology – firmly believed that the North Koreans don’t need anybody to be great, and that, as a children’s song from a 1970 film would later claim, that they have nothing to envy in the world:

It is in this idea of self-reliance that North Korean isolation was begotten. However, in time, things changed dramatically and suddenly it was the isolation that made sure that North Korea had no way of moving forward with the same government but by being self-reliant: “the strength of the regime,” notes at one place Demick, “came from its ability to isolate its own citizens completely.”

The trigger for the dramatic changes was, expectedly, the collapse of the Soviet Union. Without its help, the North Korean economy could not stay afloat.

Suddenly, North Korea had neither supplies nor electricity – in 1991, energy imports fell by 75%! – but did have large debts to both Russia and China.

To make matters worse, the last years of Kim Il-sung’s reign were marked by few bad harvests, which meant that the first year after his death, the great North Korean famine – known as the Arduous March began.

During the next four years, as many as 3 million North Koreans died of hunger and hunger-related issues, more than one-tenth of North Korea’s total population!

Kim Il-sung’s son, Kim Jong-il, had to admit that North Korea suffers from a severe food shortage and in September 1995 a UN relief team entered the country.

Five years later, Kim Jong-il had to legalize the black market which emerged during the course of the famine, but it was too little too late: most of the North Koreans had realized that they were living in a lie.

And that’s when they started defecting to (mostly) South Korea and China.

The stories of some of these defectors recounted in “Nothing to Envy” reveal that North Korea hasn’t changed one bit even under Kim Jong-un whom you may know as the “little rocket man.”

Key Lessons from “Nothing to Envy”

1.      In North Korea, You Are Defined by Your Songbun
2.      Juche Is the Official North Korean State Ideology
3.      The Majority of North Korean Defectors Are Women

In North Korea, You Are Defined by Your Songbun

Songbun – or officially chulsin-songbun – is the system North Korea uses to ascribe a social status to its citizens.

It works something like that “Nosedive” episode from “Black Mirror” only it’s much more real and deep: North Koreans go through eight background checks which include an analysis of the economic history and the behavior of their direct ancestors and relatives!

In short, if your grandparent was a dissident – you are a potential enemy of the state.

Juche Is the Official North Korean State Ideology

North Koreans are taught that they are genetically predetermined to be the only egalitarian socialist country in the world.

Believe it or not, according to the official state ideology called Juche, North Korea has nothing to envy the world!

Of course it hasn’t.

The Majority of North Korean Defectors Are Women

The easiest way to leave North Korea is if you sell yourself as a wife (read: slave) to a Chinese citizen.

75% of North Korean defectors have done exactly that!

Apparently, it’s better to be a slave in China, than a free citizen of North Korea!

Now that we believe.

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“Nothing to Envy Quotes”

Dogs in China ate better than doctors in North Korea. Click To Tweet

The more there was to complain about, the more important it was to ensure that nobody did. Click To Tweet

As her students were dying, she was supposed to teach them that they were blessed to be North Korean. Click To Tweet

The strength of the regime came from its ability to isolate its own citizens completely. Click To Tweet

Listening to South Korean television was like looking in the mirror for the first time in your life and realizing you were unattractive. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

A sort of a North Korean “Gulag Archipelago,” “Nothing to Envy” juggles brilliantly between objectively recounting the history of North Korea and movingly telling the chilling personal stories of its victims.

A real “tour de force of meticulous reporting”!    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

Slavery by Another Name PDF Summary

Slavery by Another Name PDFThe Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II

How many times have we heard about the exploitation and killings of Jews, and just bypassing the destiny of the African-Americans?

Although organized extermination was never the goal; slavery was seen as the quickest way of becoming rich.

Let’s see what Douglas has to say.

Who Should Read “Slavery by Another Name”? And Why?

If the name Nelson Mandela doesn’t ring any bells, then you are not of this Planet. Let’s assume that you’ve heard about his fight against the Apartheid and which granted him 27 Years in Prison.

This book bears a different name, but it’s written with an equally powerful purpose. In our humble opinion “Slavery by Another Name” doesn’t focus on anti-white rhetoric, but on social justice.

Anyone who thinks otherwise should indulge in reading it.

About Douglas A. Blackmon

Douglas A. BlackmonDouglas A. Blackmon is an American journalist and an award-winning author born on September 6th, 1964.

“Slavery by Another Name PDF Summary”

Blackmon digs deep in World History, and as a reporter decides to provoke the Wall Street Journal by asking a series of questions that make every person raise its eyebrows over the money-making methods.

He refers to in particular the idea of putting the British and American Imperial interests on the same wavelength as the German Policies during WW2. In other words, is the business/world community prepared to “bestow” the same level of disgust upon US Corporations as they did on the Swiss Banks and German Companies.

It’s no surprise that the history is written by the victorious, and this biased approach leaves people blinded by the ideas enforced upon them. The Holocaust was not only the cold-blooded execution of millions of Jews but also a well-planned robbery.  

Anyway, Douglas turns his attention over to Corporate Policies that in the post-Civil-War period relied on Black Labor Force to achieve their goals and quotas. In general, this was Douglas’ main trigger, which inflamed the burning desire and passion for writing about this “abandoned” course of history.

Although Blackmon covers a lot more than just the life of a single person, the storyline is built and revolves around Green Cottenham – a young African-American man. What’s even more shocking is that the historical records of this individual are scarce, which puts additional weight on the problem.

According to the author, depriving Cottenham of his voice, rights, needs, and urges is what lies at the center of this trilogy. From today’s perspective, we know very little of Cottenham’s life. But that doesn’t lead to any sort of discouragement regarding the idea of digging up of what has remained of his “journey.”

From the information gathered, Cottenham’s day of birth is still up in the air. He was born in the late 19th century, to two former “incarcerated” slaves who shared the same fate in the South. In 1908, the Alabama State Penitentiary archive records show that Cottenham was arrested on charges of vagrancy.

Let’s clear up the confusion – this means: A dog running around without a master. However horrifying this sounds, this destiny was shared among many African Americans who were robbed of their freedom for the same reasons.

The State of Alabama sent a notice to the Penitentiary Facilities to “rent” African Americans that are detained in prisons on unclear charges. They were needed in coal mines to work for U.S. Steel Corporation, where many of them had their final breath.

Cottenham died while being worked to death.

As you may already have guessed it, this new form of captivity is what Blackmon calls “Industrial Slavery.” It’s within the context of robbing someone of his will and way of life. The cotton fields were replaced by factories, where many people met their end.

Although, The Thirteenth Amendment released all slaves from the lashes of their masters; many Southerners found new ways to restrict the political, social and economic freedom of African-Americans. The South known for its racial rhetoric and through the governmental bodies decided to deviate from the laws enforced about abolishing slavery, and invented terms to keep African-Americans obedient.

Jail acted as the primary weapon for labeling these figures as crime-oriented personalities in need of social education.

Exploitation even after The Thirteenth Amendment happened on a colossal scale, as Blacks were being detained for no good reason. Worked and sometimes starved to exhaustion on plantations, factories, coal mines, and lumber camps.

The evidence of this unethical and inhumane behavior can be found anywhere. The former Governor of Georgia who accumulated great wealth through his “convict and socializing program,” is just one of them.

Eugene Reese was among the few who endeavored in putting the responsible parties behind bars, who orchestrated this whole process. Under federal laws, he had the right to do so, but his efforts bore very few fruits because such policies and rhetorics were not “popular” at the time.

Excluding the Blacks from the social life, was not something seen as an injustice, especially in the South, so the prosecution was left empty-handed.

The slave tendencies put a strain on the relations between various communities within the country, and at the height of WW2, the country required unity. So, the racial issues slightly loosened at the time. Military action was crucial, and mobilization was underway.

Key Lessons from “Slavery by Another Name”

1.      We need sincerity
2.      You reap what you sow
3.      New way, new life

We need sincerity

Blackmon doesn’t feel that a royal apology, nor pardon would do the job.

He believes that it’s vital to acknowledge the fact that the Blacks were demonized and used for personal agendas.

This is the only way to put all the differences aside and create a society in which every life counts.

You reap what you sow

If the world continues to perceive the world through the lens of judgment, we will reap sorrow and conflicts.

Building a better place requires a higher awareness that no longer divides people based on their status, political background, nationality, religion, skin color, etc.

New way, new life

Have we learned something? Are we walking down the same road or take different ones? All things considered, this compelling book should incite an inner change.

Go with the flow, and understand life as a basic human right to live/go/do/think as you please.

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“Slavery by Another Name Quotes”

the account of how a form of American slavery persisted into the twentieth century, embraced by the U.S. economic system and abided at all levels of government, offered a concrete answer to that fear for the first time. Click To Tweet How had so large a population of Americans disappeared into largely unrecorded oblivion of poverty and obscurity? Click To Tweet Compelled to help arm the troops fighting to preserve his enslavement. Click To Tweet In the eyes of the vast majority of white Americans, the refusal of the southern states to fully free or enfranchize former slaves and their descendants was not an issue worthy of any further disruption to the civil stability of the… Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

As much as we loved reading “Long Walk to Freedom,” we share a slightly higher affection for this one. To amplify our answer – this is something no one has ever talked about.

We all know about the slavery, but the idea of unveiling other subtler forms appeared just in time.

We give our thumbs up!    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

Guns, Germs, and Steel PDF Summary

Guns, Germs, and Steel PDFA Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years

You’ve read that right:

Guns, Germs, and Steel” tells everything about everybody.

In 500 pages.

Here summarized in about 1,500 words!

Who Should Read “Guns, Germs, and Steel”? And Why?

The main reason why Jared Diamond wrote “Guns, Germs, and Steel” was a conversation he had with a New Guinean politician called Yali.

Yali asked Diamond: “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?”

If you want to find out the answer to this question – then read “Guns, Germs, and Steel.”

Because this book does give the most widely accepted one.

Jared DiamondAbout Jared Diamond

Jared Mason Diamond is an American polymath (geographer, physiologist, biologist, anthropologist) and the author of many popular science books, such as “The Third Chimpanzee” and “Why Is Sex Fun?”

A professor of geography at UCLA, he is one of the most influential public intellectuals in the world.


“Guns, Germs, and Steel PDF Summary”

“It seems logical to suppose that history’s pattern reflects innate differences among people themselves,” writes Jared Diamond in “Guns, Germs, and Steel” in a sentence which sounds controversial despite the italicized verb.

But, nevertheless, it’s difficult to dismiss it simply because it is not politically correct.

After all, there are some questions which seem unanswerable without a “convincing, detailed, agreed-upon explanation for the broad pattern of history.”

For example, why almost all of the hunter-gatherer societies disappeared even though the ones we could study until recently seemed non-violent, lawful in the absence of laws, egalitarian, and, for all intents and purposes, more content than us?

Why did practically every technological innovation you can think of was made either by a European or a Chinese for millennia?

Even more controversially: why did the white people enslave the African-Americans and not the other way around?

In “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” Diamond attempts to answer these – and numerous similar – questions by taking a wide interdisciplinary look of history, biology, and – possibly most importantly – geography.

In fact, the main thesis of the book, in the words of the author, is the following one:

History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.

In other words, it does matter where you are born; not because of the who; but because of the where.

The main environmental difference between the conquerors (Europe and Asia) and the conquered (Africa, the Americas) is the primary geographic axis.

Namely, as opposed to the Eurasian east-west latitudinal axis, the African and the American axis is longitudinal, i.e., north-south.

And, unfortunately, that is the direction in which climate changes.

Consequently, European and Asian countries were able not only to communicate easily between them even before the proper sailing and marine technology was developed, but they were also able to almost inadvertently share each other’s progress in agriculture as well.

For example, domesticated crops could easily spread from Europe to Asia and vice versa via one domestication, few bugs and a little bit of wind; contrary to this, cotton or squash had to be domesticated over and over again in Mesoamerica in multiple individual areas, because the crops couldn’t spread by themselves in north-south direction.

As Diamond notes, “all human societies contain inventive people. It’s just that some environments provide more starting materials and more favorable conditions for utilizing inventions than other environments.”

And this, logically, meant many different things in the long run, best summed up in this cycle: more food → more people → more intellectual power → better technology → more food…

Less intuitively, it also meant better immunity, due to the domestication of numerous animals and the subsequent exposure to deadly germs.

Which is why far more Native Americans, Australians, and South Africans died from infectious diseases than from knives and guns.

Speaking of which, Jared Diamond points out four primary reasons why the Europeans conquered the Americans and the Africans and not the other way around:

#1. Opportunities for domestication of plants and animals.

Europe and Asia had by far the best prospects in this area, as opposed to, say, Australia, whose chances to become a superpower were always going to be slim to none. We can place Africa and America somewhere in the middle.

However, the fact that Europeans and Asians could eat far better food and in far larger quantities (these continents were inhabited with a far larger number of domesticable animal and plant species) meant that they were able to reproduce in larger numbers when compared to the inhabitants of Africa or the Americas.

#2. Agricultural and technological expansion.

In addition to having more domestication-worthy/viable animals and plants, the Eurasians also had the luxury of domesticating them at a faster rate, due to the primary direction of the continent’s geographic axis (east-west) and the absence of any significant geographic barriers (deserts and mountains).

#3. Intercontinental diffusion.

Since Eurasia is one large (easily traversable) landmass, it was always easy for ideas and technologies to spread from China to Portugal – even in the absence of direct contact. The northern parts of the African continent profited from this communication as well.

However, such communication was all but impossible in the Americas which are connected by an almost inhabitable area notorious for its susceptibility to floods, landslides, and earthquakes.

#4. Population size.

This is self-explanatory: you can’t have a large army if you don’t have a large population. And you can’t profit from competition if you don’t have someone to compete against:

In short, Europe’s colonization of Africa [and America] had nothing to do with differences between European and African peoples themselves, as white racists assume. Rather, it was due to accidents of geography and biogeography — in particular, to the continents’ different areas, axes, and suites of wild plant and animal species.

Key Lessons from “Guns, Germs, and Steel”

1.      Geography and Progress
2.      The Anna Karenina Principle
3.      Centralized Power vs. Fragmentation

Geography and Progress

The main thesis of Jared Diamond’s transdisciplinary classic “Guns, Germs, and Steel” is that “history followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.”

Throughout the book, he attempts to show that Eurasians had the opportunity to develop more and better than the Americans or the Africans simply because they lived on the better continents.

In a nutshell, the fact that Eurasia is one large landmass and that its primary geographic axis is east-west meant better diffusion of technology and culture and more efficient communication between the people living on these continents as opposed to the ones living in the Americas and Africa whose geographic axis is north-south.

The Anna Karenina Principle

According to the Anna Karenina principle – inspired by the memorable first sentence of the Leo Tolstoy classic – in order for an endeavor to be successful, all factors must be met; in other words, if any one of these factors remains unmet than the endeavor is doomed to fail.

Jared Diamond uses this principle to explain why there are only 14 (out of 148 possible candidates) domesticated species.

In his opinion, the factors which must be met for an animal to be domestication-worthy are at least six: diet (it must be easy to feed), growth rate (it must grow fast enough), captive breeding (it must be able to breed in captivity), disposition (it must not be ill-tempered), tendency to panic (it mustn’t take flight), and social structure (lonely animals are not good candidates).

Very few animals – in Diamond’s opinion only the 14 we have already domesticated – meet all six criteria.

Centralized Power vs. Fragmentation

Interestingly enough, the only reason why Europe crossed the Atlantic first – and not China the Pacific – to colonize the Americas was the social structure of the continents.

China, in other words, had the technology, but about half a century before Columbus set sail, a local political dispute resulted in a national ban on transoceanic expeditions. This was possible because one man had the power to do that.

In Europe, Columbus was turned down by four different kingdoms before Spain decided to fund his trip. A Chinese sailor with an idea to cross the Pacific didn’t have another country to look funds from but China.

In other words, a little fragmentation is good; too much centralized power is not.

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“Guns, Germs, and Steel Quotes”

Much of human history has consisted of unequal conflicts between the haves and the have-nots. Click To Tweet

With the rise of chiefdoms around 7,500 years ago, people had to learn, for the first time in history, how to encounter strangers regularly without attempting to kill them. Click To Tweet

It's striking that Native Americans evolved no devastating epidemic diseases to give to Europeans in return for the many devastating epidemic diseases that Indians received from the Old World. Click To Tweet

Rhino-mounted Bantu shock troops could have overthrown the Roman Empire. It never happened. Click To Tweet

One way to explain the complexity and unpredictability of historical systems, despite their ultimate determinacy, is to note that long chains of causation may separate final effects from ultimate causes lying outside the domain of that… Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

“Guns, Germs, and Steel” won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 1998 and was turned into a National Geographic documentary seven years later.

About a decade after this, we didn’t think twice before including it in our list of top history books ever written.

Not because numerous giants of modern scholarship – from Yuval Noah Harari to Gregory Clark – have been directly inspired by “Guns, Germs, and Steel.”

But, simply put, because we have been as well.

One of our favorite books.    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

A Short History of Financial Euphoria PDF Summary

A Short History of Financial Euphoria PDFReady for a new speculative bubble?

Because as John Kenneth Galbraith’s “A Short History of Financial Euphoria” demonstrates, if there’s one thing history has taught us it’s that there will surely be one very soon.

Read ahead to find out why.

Who Should Read “A Short History of Financial Euphoria”? And Why?

In “A Short History of Financial Euphoria,” John Kenneth Galbraith offers “dourly irreverent analyses of financial debacle from the tulip craze of the seventeenth century to the recent plague of junk bonds.”

Chances are you’ll forget the origin and the effects of all of them in the blink of an eye, which will expose you to the manipulative schemes of charlatans and cons in no time.

Which is why it’s all but necessary to not merely read, but also constantly reread Galbraith’s 100-page classic.

John Kenneth GalbraithAbout John Kenneth Galbraith

John Kenneth Galbraith was a Canadian-born economist and diplomat, one of the leading proponents of American liberalism of the 20th century.

A long-time Harvard faculty member and professor, Galbraith served in the administrations of four American presidents (Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson).

One of the few people to receive both the Medal of Freedom and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Galbraith was USA’s Ambassador to India under Kennedy and a widely respected public intellectual for the duration of the Cold War.

A prolific author, he wrote numerous books, including a few successful novels. His trilogy on economics – “American Capitalism,” “The Affluent Society” and “The New Industrial State” – is still hotly debated and thoroughly analyzed.

“A Short History of Financial Euphoria PDF Summary”

There is nothing in economic life,” writes John Kenneth Galbraith near the end of his “Short History of Financial Euphoria,” so willfully misunderstood as the great speculative episode.

And this, even though on the face of it, everything should be quite plain and simple.

It all starts with a bidding war over some asset a few people believe is so rare and important that its value should only increase in the future.

That’s, after all, the basic economic rule: when supply is low, and demand is great, prices rise.

Add to this the yearning desire of many people to become rich overnight, and you get a recipe for disaster!

Because soon enough, investors join in.

Why should they not?

It’s their job to get the most out of anything, and bubbles are the perfect way for them to earn some money.

And since they are usually the earliest players, they actually do – and they do it big time!

Of course, these investors are not exactly humble people, so they start tooting their own horns, and soon even more people start investing in the asset the price of which, in the meantime, has blown ridiculously out of proportions.

The scary thing is that in this second group of people there are usually even quite a few intelligent analysts who are aware that at some point in the future this bubble must burst, but who, nevertheless, expect to be able to take their money back before that happens.

Some do. Most don’t.

And when the inevitable happens – the market crash – many lose substantial amounts of money; many more lose absolutely everything.

The strange thing: in a decade or so, financial euphoria strikes again.


In the opinion of Galbraith, it is because of several unchanging factors.

Since these are probably the most important insights of his book but are mostly scattered through brilliant historical analyses of many speculative bubbles, we tried to systematize them so that you can follow them better.

#1. Short-term fiscal memory

When it comes to money, Galbraith says, people never seem to learn anything. “There can be few fields of human endeavor,” he says, “in which history counts for so little as in the world of finance.”

In other words, when it comes to get-rich-fast schemes, you can burn yourself numerous times, because wanting more is part of your very human nature.

Rationality is just a note on the margin.

#2. The fallacious link between wealth and intellect

Most people believe that wealthy investors are, by definition, smart.

Which is why they have devised all those fancy epithets about the likes of Warren Buffet, Peter Lynch, and George Soros!

However, since almost everything that happens in life and in the markets is governed by chance, it’s all but crazy to believe that some people have found a surefire way to earn money.

In fact, most of the time, they have just been lucky.

The majority doesn’t think so.

So, it is inclined to be the victim of Ponzi schemes and speculative bubbles.

#3. Nobody believes the pessimists

Almost every bubble comes with a Cassandra or two.

Before the market crash of 1929, Paul M. Warburg foresaw the collapse and the depression, but his warnings fell on deaf ears, with the public claiming that he (a Jew) was “sandbagging American prosperity.”

Most wanted to believe Irving Fisher who famously proclaimed that the “stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”

Just a few days before the market crashed.

#4. Everyone chooses to ignore the real reasons

Charles Mackay, in his remarkable 1841 classic “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” (a defining influence on Galbraith’s book which thoroughly recounts its three chapters), commenting on the South Sea Company bubble, writes thus:

[In the autumn of 1720,] public meetings were held in every considerable town of the empire, at which petitions were adopted, praying the vengeance of the legislature upon the South Sea directors, who, by their fraudulent practices, had brought the nation to the brink of ruin. Nobody seemed to imagine that the nation itself was as culpable as the South-Sea company. Nobody blamed the credulity and avarice of the people-the degrading lust of gain…or the infatuation which had made the multitude run their heads with such frantic eagerness into the net held out for them by scheming projectors. These things were never mentioned.

The truth is – these things never are.

Even though:

#5. Bubbles are an inherent part of the market

Speculation is part of the market, and it will always be that way.

Contrary to what many will say, the market is not infallible, since humans are not infallible as well.

Regulations can help, but even they can’t contain mass euphoria and gullibility.

So, as long as there are people and markets, there will be bubbles as well.

Key Lessons from “A Short History of Financial Euphoria”

1.      People Suffer from a Short-Term Fiscal Memory
2.      Believe the Pessimists – for Your Own Sake
3.      Bubbles Are Inherent Part of the Free-Enterprise System

People Suffer from a Short-Term Fiscal Memory

When it comes to money, people tend to forget everything, including the most disastrous financial crashes in but a few decades.

That’s why it’s too optimistic to hope that people will ever learn their lesson when it comes to speculative bubbles.

Believe the Pessimists – for Your Own Sake

Every speculative bubble comes with a Cassandra or two: a prophet of disaster whose prophecies nobody believes until it’s too late.

Unfortunately, more often than not – or, rather, for most of the people involved – they are the only ones who are actually right.

Could it be that the pessimists are also right in the case of, say, Bitcoin?

Bubbles Are Inherent Part of the Free-Enterprise System

Markets are not perfect.

Bubbles are a part of them, and, as long as there are markets, it is inevitable that many people will lose huge amounts of money due to ruinous speculation.

The earlier you realize this, the better for you.

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“A Short History of Financial Euphoria Quotes”

The circumstances that induce the recurrent lapses into financial dementia have not changed in any truly operative fashion since the Tulipomania of 1636-1637. Click To Tweet

The world of finance hails the invention of the wheel over and over again, often in a slightly more unstable version. Click To Tweet

There is nothing in economic life so willfully misunderstood as the great speculative episode. Click To Tweet

Speculation buys up, in a very practical way, the intelligence of those involved. Click To Tweet

In a world where for many the acquisition of money is difficult and the resulting sums palpably insufficient, the possession of it in large amounts seems a miracle. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

“Financial Euphoria” – to quote a great review – is a keeper, the sort of book you’ll recommend to other investors. It is brief, readable, with a statesman-like style, yet not above the heads of small investors.

Originally, Galbraith wrote it as a warning. Unfortunately, as he explains in the Foreword to the book’s second edition, a warning he grew to believe that has no value whatsoever:

In the first foreword to this volume, I told of my hope that business executives, the inhabitants of the financial world and the citizens of speculative mood, tendency or temptation might be reminded of the way that not only fools but quite a lot of other people are recurrently separated from their money in the moment of speculative euphoria.

I am less certain than when I then wrote of the social and personal value of such a warning. Recurrent speculative insanity and the associated financial deprivation and larger devastation are, I am persuaded, inherent in the system. Perhaps it is better that this be recognized and accepted.

Unsurprisingly, Galbraith ends his book with a depressing question: “When will come the next great speculative episode and in what venue will it recur?”

That was 1994.

Unfortunately, we know now the answer.

And, yet – frighteningly – the question is still valid.    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

Plan of Attack PDF Summary – Bob Woodward

Plan of Attack PDFThe Definitive Account of the Decision to Invade Iraq

In “Bush at War,” Bob Woodward recounted George W. Bush’s responses to the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent War in Afghanistan.

Now, in “Plan of Attack” he picks up where he left off.

Which means – it’s time the American public learns of the decision-making process which led to the War in Iraq.

Who Should Read “Plan of Attack”? And Why?

Ever since blowing the Watergate affair wide open, Bob Woodward has acquired the status of a legend in the world of investigative journalism, which means that all of his books are both eagerly awaited and closely scrutinized.

This one was on the reading lists of both the Bush/Cheney and the Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign during the elections of 2004.

Which can only mean that is as objective and neutral-sided as it can be.

An essential read for everyone who wants to learn something more about the way our leaders decide who should we bomb and how should we do that.

Bob WoodwardAbout Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward is an American investigative journalist, an associate editor at “The Washington Post” where he has worked ever since 1971.

A 1965 graduate of Yale University, Woodward served as a communications officer in the US Navy for five years before beginning his journalistic career.

Just two years into it, he was teamed up with Carl Bernstein, and the two gained a nationwide reputation as the men who unearthed the Watergate Affair, “maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time.”

An author of 17 nonfiction bestsellers and winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, Woodward has been described as both “the best reporter of our time” and “the best reporter of all time.”

Find out more at

“Plan of Attack PDF Summary”

Ten days before George W. Bush’s first inauguration, the newly elected American President attended a Pentagon briefing, which – following the advice of Vice President-elect (and behind-the-scenes, ahem, master of ceremonies) Dick Cheney – was supposed to be almost exclusively about Iraq.

Ever since the presidency of Bush’s father and the Persian Gulf War, Iraq was seen as a rogue state and its leader, Saddam Hussein, was regularly portrayed in American media as some sort of an incarnation of evil.

Be that as it may, the briefing must have been a boring affair, since Dick Cheney conspicuously nodded off, and George W. Bush was more interested in the peppermints on the table than what then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen had to say on the matter.

Donald H. Rumsfeld, on the other hand, couldn’t hear a thing, so he repeatedly kept asking the generals to speak up.

After the meeting, one of the chiefs dryly remarked that the new administration has gotten off to a great start.

In the eyes of Cohen, it seemed to be interested in everything but a war with Saddam.

A few days later, Bush received a second briefing.

This one was from George Tenet, Director of the CIA, and James Pavitt, his deputy.

The conclusions were unsurprising: there were three chief threats to the security of the United States, and none of them was Iraq.

Needless to say, the three threats in question were – in order of seriousness – Osama bin Laden, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and China.

Nine months later, these predictions came through: 3,000 Americans lost their lives during the Al Qaeda-organized September 11 attacks.

Surprisingly, Bin Laden wasn’t the only target Pentagon was interested in after 9/11. That very same day, the then-Defense Secretary started plotting something else as well:

At 2:40 p.m. that day, with dust and smoke filling the operations center as he was trying to figure out what happened, Rumsfeld raised with his staff the possibility of going after Iraq as a response to the terrorist attacks, according to an aide’s notes. Saddam Hussein is S.H. in these notes, and UBL is Usama Bin Laden. The notes show that Rumsfeld had mused about whether to ‘hit S.H. @ same time — not only UBL’ and asked the Pentagon lawyer to talk to Paul Wolfowitz about the Iraq ‘connection with UBL.’ The next day in the inner circle of Bush’s war cabinet, Rumsfeld asked if the terrorist attacks did not present an ‘opportunity’ to launch against Iraq.

Four days later, during a debate at Camp David, even Dick Cheney – otherwise obsessed with attacking Iraq – advised against such an action: “If we go after Saddam Hussein,” he reportedly said, “we lose our rightful place as the good guy.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell didn’t want to hear anything about this: he saw no real linkage between Saddam and 9/11 and, unless provided, he considered any attempt to enlarge the scale of operations to include Iraq as well “a lunacy.”

What this resulted in was secret meetings between Donald Rumsfeld and his Deputy Paul Wolfowitz, culminating in a meeting between President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld during which it was effectively decided that the United States will invade Iraq.

This happened on November 21, 2001.

What followed was a “a chronicle of continual dilemmas, since the president was pursuing two simultaneous policies. He was planning for war, and he was conducting diplomacy to avoid war.”

Rumsfeld didn’t like any of the 68 war plans the Pentagon possessed concerning an invasion of Iraq, so he started a project of updating them.

Paul Wolfowitz and, especially, General Tommy Franks took care of that, and in about a year and a half, the United States was ready for a war.

One that it had about $700 million dollars to spend on (funds taken from the supplemental appropriations bill for Afghanistan), but no rationale to justify it (9/11 was not enough for the American public).

And, just like that, on February 5, 2003, Colin Powell (who changed his mind in the meantime possibly out of a sense of duty) addressed a plenary session of the United Nations Security Council and argued in favor of a military operation, claiming that Iraq possessed WMDs.

What the American public – and, most probably, Powell himself – didn’t know at that time, was that as much as half a year earlier, the CIA tried telling the Bush administration that Iraq wasn’t in possession of WMDs and that Saddam had never collaborated with Al Qaeda.

However, by that time, this didn’t matter one bit.

The Bush administration wanted Saddam out of Iraq, which was the only reason why the USA attacked the country.

As harsh as it may sound, the 9/11 attacks were just an appropriate excuse.

The real war – like most wars – was actually a secret one.

Key Lessons from “Plan of Attack”

1.      The War on Terror Wasn’t About 9/11: It Was About Regime Change
2.      The Planning of the Iraq War Started Way Before the American Public Found Out
3.      The Pottery Barn Rule of War

The War on Terror Wasn’t About 9/11: It Was About Regime Change

As far as the official version of history is concerned, the War on Terror was United States’ response to the terrorist attacks of September 11.

However, this doesn’t explain why, that very same day, Donald Rumsfeld mused over “the possibility of going after Iraq as a response to the terrorist attacks.”

Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and, as we now know, it certainly didn’t possess WMDs.

However, it was ruled by Saddam Hussein, and he had to go.

That was all that mattered.

The Planning of the Iraq War Started Way Before the American Public Found Out

According to “Plan of Attack,” George W. Bush decided that the United States is going to attack Iraq on November 21, 2001, barely two months after the 9/11.

The rest of it – all the discussions about WMDs, and analyses of whether an invasion of Iraq was a feasible and reasonable solution – was nothing more but a smokescreen.

The Pottery Barn Rule of War

During the early period of the planning, Colin Powell was adamantly against a war in Iraq. He repeatedly warned the administration of “The Pottery Barn” rule of war.

Simply put, it states: “if you broke it, you owned it.”

In this case, it meant that an invasion of Iraq would result in the United States being subsequently responsible for all aspects of the country’s future fate.

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“Plan of Attack Quotes”

Bush said he realized that the simple act of setting Rumsfeld in motion on Iraq war plans might be the first step in taking the nation to a war with Saddam Hussein. Click To Tweet

The deep divisions and tensions in the war cabinet with Powell the moderate negotiator and Rumsfeld the hard-line activist meant no real policy would be made until either the president stepped in or events forced his hand. Click To Tweet

Cheney became the self-appointed examiner of worst-case scenarios. Though it was not formalized, he would look at the darker side, the truly bad and terrifying scenarios… an ideal assignment for Cheney. Click To Tweet

Cheney thought that the Clinton administration had failed in its response to terrorist acts, going back to the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and that there had been a pattern of weak responses. Click To Tweet

Powell did not share Armitage’s concern that the two of them had been enablers of the Cheney-Rumsfeld hard-line policies. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Jill Abramson, the managing editor of “The New York Times,” described Woodward’s four books on George W. Bush as “the best record we will ever get of the events they cover.”

Preceded by “Bush at War” and followed by “State of Denial” and “The War Within,” “Plan of Attack” may be the most technical – and, thus, least interesting – one, but it is also the one covering the most crucial period of Bush’s presidency: the one between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq.

Well-written and thoroughly researched, “Plan of Attack” is an exceptional and surprisingly impartial account of a still volatile topic.

As most of Woodward’s books – an essential read.    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

A Farewell to Alms PDF Summary

A Farewell to Alms PDFA Brief Economic History of the World

Have you ever wondered why some nations are rich and others poor?

Or, say, why some of the latter can’t get out of poverty regardless of their systems or the number of benevolent outside interventions?

Well, Gregory Clark has – and for most of his life.

And in “A Farewell to Alms” he offers a rather controversial answer.

Who Should Read “A Farewell to Alms”? And Why?

“A Farewell to Arms” purports to be a brief economic history of the world.

However, you’re in for a big surprise as early as the table of contents where you’ll certainly notice the suspicious absence of any title suggesting a discussion of the ideas of Adam Smith or John Maynard Keynes or of the economic theories of capitalism or socialism.

What kind of an economic history is this? – you start to wonder.

Probably the best answer to this question is “Malthusian,” but we’ll go for the more general one: “a very unique one.”

Because, as far as we know, it’s the only one of its kind.

Bear with us to find out which kind.

Or read it yourself if you are interested in economics, racial and political history and the nature of social mobility.

The best part: even though it features hundreds of graphs and discusses serious problems in economics, no formal economics training is necessary to understand any part of the book.

Gregory ClarkAbout Gregory Clark

Gregory Clark is an economic historian and a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis.

Born in Scotland, Clark attended King’s College, Cambridge before obtaining a Ph.D. degree at Harvard in 1985.

Ever since then, he has been researching topics such as social mobility, the wealth of nations, long-term economic growth, and, particularly, the economic history of England and India.

He has written one more book, the title of which is, once again, a pun on Ernest Hemingway’s novel, “The Son Also Rises.”

Find out more at

“A Farewell to Alms PDF Summary”

The basic outline of world economic history,” writes Gregory Clark at the beginning of “A Farewell to Alms,” “is surprisingly simple.

So simple, in fact, that he needs no more than one graph and about 17 pages to recount everything that has ever happened to humans in terms of wealth and incomes – and other related things – from Mesopotamia until today.

You can see the graph in the Introduction to his course at UC Davis, which, if you have the time, we advise you to hear out in its entirety – all 26 lectures of it:

Anyway, back to Clark’s simple outline of world economic history:

Before 1800 income per person – the food, clothing, heat, light, and housing available per head – varied across society and epochs. But there was no upward trend. A simple but powerful mechanism explained in this book, the Malthusian Trap, ensured that short-term gains in income through technological advances were inevitably lost through population growth.

Thus, the average person in the world of 1800 was no better off than the average person of 100,000 BC.

To translate this in no uncertain terms: if you were living in the 18th century, chances are you would have probably lived the way the Nukak people – or, to use an example you can relate to even better, the Bushmen – live today (or, at least, lived up until recently).

To you, a fervent reader of Jane Austen novels, this may sound a little bit exaggerated, but statistics demonstratively prove that it is not.

Put differently, a typical Englishman had a much worse diet than a hunter-gatherer of the Stone Age, and, since, unlike his distant ancestor, he lived in a society of inequality, he was also far less happy than the latter; both could expect to live no more than, say, 35 years.

Jane Austen may have written about refined conversations over tea served in china cups,” wittily remarks Clark. “But for the majority of the English as late as 1813 conditions were no better than for their naked ancestors of the African savannah. The Darcys were few, the poor plentiful.

The mechanism which explains why this was so: the Malthusian Trap.

Here’s what it is all about.

It is based on three simple and axiomatic assumptions:

#1. Each society has a birth rate which, naturally, increases as living standards (higher income, better education, more advanced medicine) increase;
#2. Each society has a death rate which, once again as expected, declines with the increase of living standards (fewer people tend to die today than ever for this reason);
#3. Material living standards decline – as the population increases.

In a nutshell – the Malthusian Trap is the vicious circle of (anti-)progress!

Namely, as Thomas Robert Malthus (after whom the trap is named) demonstrated back in 1798, even if technology manages to increase the material living standards, they, in turn, will diminish the death rate and increase the birth rate, resulting in a society where even though we have more resources to distribute, we need to distribute them among more people as well!

The end result?

The resource supply per capita remains the same!

That certainly explains why nothing changed for tens thousands of years, but here’s the real kicker:

In the Malthusian economy before 1800 economic policy was turned on its head: vice now was virtue then, and virtue vice. Those scourges of failed modern states—war, violence, disorder, harvest failures, collapsed public infrastructures, bad sanitation—were the friends of mankind before 1800. They reduced population pressures and increased material living standards. In contrast policies beloved of the World Bank and the United Nations today—peace, stability, order, public health, transfers to the poor—were the enemies of prosperity. They generated the population growth that impoverished societies.

And then came the Industrial Revolution and put an end to the Malthusian era of humanity!

However, not in the way you think it did – which, in fact, makes the next part the most controversial of the book.

Namely, in Clark’s opinion, the Industrial Revolution facilitated the dying out of the poor, functioning as some sort of an advanced natural selection tool.

Look at today’s Malawi or Tanzania for evidence: due to the Industrial Revolution, their people are way poorer than their Stone-Age ancestors.

However, in Britain, as the poor got poorer and started dying more, the rich got richer and took over the positions of the former.

And with it, they spread a fairly new type of values – hard work, education, rationality – among the strata of society previously governed by illiteracy and instincts such as violence and impatience.

Thus, the British started using the resources more sensibly and finally broke out of the Malthusian Trap.

Many countries are, unfortunately, still in it.

And, if Clark’s analysis is correct, the policies we use to get them out of it, may be utterly wrong.

Key Lessons from “A Farewell to Alms”

1.      Hunter-Gatherers Were Richer Than Many People Living Today
2.      The Mechanism of the Malthusian Trap
3.      Money Doesn’t Bring Happiness

Hunter-Gatherers Were Richer Than Many People Living Today

It may sound strange to you, but the following sentence is a fact: “There walk the earth now both the richest people who ever lived and the poores.”

For example, the people living today in, say, Malawi and Tanzania – on average – have a lower living standard than their very distant ancestors.

Just as the Industrial Revolution reduced income inequalities within societies,” notes Clark, “it has increased them between societies, in a process recently labeled the Great Divergence. The gap in incomes between countries is of the order of 50:1.

The Mechanism of the Malthusian Trap

In “An Essay on the Principle of Population” published in 1798, Thomas Robert Malthus first touched upon the subject why, in spite of obvious progress, men, on average, remained as wealthy/poor for millennia.

And the explanation is quite simple:

When technological advances increase the supply – i.e., more resources – they also increase the birth rate and diminish the death rate – i.e., more people.

Which means, the amount of supplied resources per capita remains unaffected.

Money Doesn’t Bring Happiness

It’s strange, but it’s true:

“The people of the world of 1800, in which all societies were relatively poor, and communities were much more local in scope, were likely just as happy as the wealthiest nations of the world today, such as the United States.”


Simply put, because happiness is a relative category.

And because our societies are unequal.

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“A Farewell to Alms Quotes”

As long as technology improved slowly, material conditions could not permanently improve. Click To Tweet

Since the Industrial Revolution...we have entered a strange new world in which economic theory is of little use in understanding differences in income across societies. Click To Tweet

High incomes profoundly shape lifestyles in the modern developed world. But wealth has not brought happiness. Another foundational assumption of economics is incorrect. Click To Tweet

Given the static nature of the economy and of the opportunities it afforded, the abundant children of the rich had to, on average, move down the social hierarchy. Click To Tweet

Poor countries used the same technology as rich ones. They achieved the same levels of output per unit of capital. But in doing so, they employed so much more labor per machine that they lost most of the labor cost advantages with which… Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

As controversial as an economics book can get nowadays, “A Farewell to Alms” was deemed “the next blockbuster in economics” as soon as it was published.

The prediction came true, springing a lively debate of which the main thesis is still a subject.

So, the word “stimulating” doesn’t even begin to describe it.    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

The World as It Is PDF Summary – Ben Rhodes

The World as It Is PDFA Memoir of the Obama White House

Do you want a look behind the doors of the Obama administration?

Well, who better to offer you one than Ben Rhodes, one of Obama’s most trusted advisors?

Rhodes tells it all in his 2018 memoir, “The World as It Is.”

Who Should Read “The World as It Is”? And Why?

The World as It Is,” in the words of “The New Yorker” reviewer George Packer, is “the closest view of Obama we’re likely to get until he publishes his own memoir.

So, if you want a behind-the-scenes account of Obama’s presidency, this is the best book you’ll find on the market.

Which means – it’s perfect for people interested in American history and the current state of US politics. Especially in the evolution of its foreign policy views.

Ben RhodesAbout Ben Rhodes

Ben Rhodes is a former White House staffer and American political adviser.

During Obama’s presidency, Rhodes served as the Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting.

He was considered one of Obama’s most trusted aides and was featured in Time’s 40 Under 40 list in 2011.

With Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, Rhodes has authored one more book, “Without Precedent.”

“The World as It Is PDF Summary”

You certainly remember Barack Obama “Hope” poster.

Well, that’s what Obama represented to many people back in 2008: a beacon of hope.

And Ben Rhodes certainly wasn’t an exception!

A member of his team since 2007, Rhodes was especially involved in Obama’s 2008 global campaign tour, during which Obama first presented his against-the-grain foreign policy stance.

And he was immediately taken by it, since it offered a promise for change, differing significantly from the foreign policies of former presidents and then-current politicians.

For example, as early as 2009, the second year of his presidency, Obama tried to address directly the Muslim world, something no president before him had even attempted.

(Read: Israel. Also read: in 2017, an Israeli private intelligence firm tried to manufacture incriminating information about the author of “The World as It Is” and his wife, in an attempt to blackmail supporters of the Iran nuclear deal).

So, he went to Egypt, “the heart of the Arab world,” and, at Cairo University, he delivered a speech which was hailed by the Muslim world as balanced and vision-offering.

In it, Obama emphasized how the Western world must re-educate itself about the Arab world’s contributions and how the Muslim world must accept the universality of Western notions about human rights and revert to a more liberal form of Islam.

The bottom line: both sides knew too little about each other (or even themselves), and all problems stemmed from this misunderstanding.

Obama’s speech energized the need for change.

Just a year later, the Arab Spring began:

In just two months, the world had turned upside down. We’d seen a regime fall in Tunisia, broken from a longtime U.S. ally in Egypt, and intervened in Libya. History, it seemed, was turning in the direction of young people in the streets, and we had placed the United States of America on their side. Where this drama would turn next was uncertain—protests were already rattling a monarch in Bahrain, a corrupt leader in Yemen, a strongman in Syria.

At first, it was difficult to understand what was happening in Egypt – the country where it all started – and if reiterating the positive vision of the Cairo speech was the right political decision.

For example, Hillary Clinton believed that there was a lot of sense in standing beside Hosni Mubarak’s government, which had been both stable and pro-US for years.

However, privately, Obama’s sympathies lay with the people of the street. “If it were up to him, he told McFaul, he’d prefer that ‘the Google guy’ run Egypt, referring to Wael Ghonim, a prominent activist who was helping to lead the protest movement.”

In time, the situation crystallized and Obama eventually called Mubarak telling him that it’s time for a new government.

In 2011, Obama delivered on one of his most important promises: getting Osama bin Laden.

On his orders, USA’s No. 1 enemy was shot and killed inside a private residential compound in Abbottabad on May 2, during a covert operation.

“We got him,” said Obama back then, telling the nation that justice had been done.

During the last few years in power, the President normalized relations with Cuba, refused to take military action in Syria and pushed through the Iran nuclear weapons deal, despite strong opposition.

He also lost the Information War with Russia, accepting the fact that fighting against fake news using the same means leads to a worse, and not a better world.

Key Lessons from “The World as It Is”

1.      Obama Would Have Inadvertently Quoted Hitler Once… in Berlin!
2.      Obama’s Unique Upbringing Profoundly Influenced His Views
3.      Obama Was Surprised When America Chose Trump

Obama Would Have Inadvertently Quoted Hitler Once… in Berlin!

The highlight of Barack Obama’s foreign policy tour of 2008 was a July 24 speech in Berlin, delivered before the Berlin Victory Column.

A call for peace and an apology of globalization given in front of a monument of a war victory, the speech was an enormous success, and some parts of it you can find engraved on the floor of one of Berlin’s most attractive malls even a decade later.

However, everything could have ended a lot worse if Obama wouldn’t have double-checked one of the ending lines of the speech just hours before the event.

While doing that, he discovered that the word “Shicksalsgemeinschaft” (meaning “community of fate”) – one which he initially wanted to quote in German – had, in fact, been the title of one of Adolf Hitler’s best-known speeches!


Obama’s Unique Upbringing Profoundly Influenced His Views

Obama was born in Hawaii, a former US colony, to a white mother of mostly English descent and a black Kenyan father.

During the second half of the 1960s, he lived in Indonesia, where a US-sponsored coup led to a violent government purge which, according to today’s estimates, resulted in the death of at least million people, mostly communists.

Obama’s great-uncle, on the other hand, was one of the people who liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany.

All this, combined, resulted in Obama’s unique understanding of American exceptionalism, which, to him, meant much more than a list of ideals.

Case in point: when in Turkey, he tackled the controversial issue of Turkey’s treatment of minorities by talking about America’s treatment of Native and African Americans in the past.

However, this was met with criticism back in the United States, where his stance on the Muslim detainees in the Guantanamo Bay prison (stuck in a “legal black hole”) led to a widespread belief that Obama was a Muslim.

And, if we recall well, Trump was not above correcting his voters that this is entirely untrue.

Obama Was Surprised When America Chose Trump

It seems that Obama naively believed in truth and globalism, so he was astonished to find that the United States chose Trump to be its President.

A serious problem since, basically, the only thing Trump wanted to talk about with Obama a week after his election was the size of his campaign rallies.

Obama’s advice on how to deal with Trump:

Find some high ground and hunker down.

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“The World as It Is Quotes”

You can’t change things unless you change the people making the decisions. Click To Tweet

My being president appears to have literally driven some white people insane. Click To Tweet

People didn’t just see Obama but felt seen by him. Click To Tweet

This is how the White House learned that Tripoli was about to fall: on Twitter. Click To Tweet

Holding out for a better deal (with Iran) was not going to work. It was diplomacy or war. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

“The World as It Is” was always going to be somewhat biased – after all, Rhodes is Obama’s friend – but it’s surprising how candid it is regardless of that.

Joe Klein is right when he says in “The New York Times Book” review that Rhodes’ “achievement is rare for a political memoir: he has written a humane and honorable book.”

Also – at least in our opinion – one that makes us long for a new president.

There, we said it.    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

The Restless Wave PDF Summary

The Restless Wave PDFGood Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations

As his life is nearing to its inevitable end, John McCain feels the pressing need to cast a candid eye on all the good he had the privilege of experiencing and all the mistakes that he, unfortunately, made.

The result?

The Restless Wave,” possibly his final memoir.

Who Should Read “The Restless Wave”? And Why?

Writing for “The New York Times,” Senator Lindsey Graham remarks that “The Restless Wave” “should be required reading for anyone who wants to lead in a democracy.”

Yes, that means especially you, Donald!

John McCainAbout John McCain

John McCain is the senior US Senator from Arizona and the 2008 Republican nominee for President of the United States.

McCain served in the United States Navy from 1954 to 1981, a period during which he spent six years as a Vietnamese prisoner of war (1967-1973). In 1982, he was elected to the US State of Representatives, and four years later, he joined the Senate.

Together with his “alter ego,” Mark Salter, McCain has co-authored seven books: “Faith of My Fathers,” “Worth Fighting For,” “Why Courage Matters,” “Character Is Destiny,” “Hard Call,” “Thirteen Soldiers,” and “The Restless Wave. “

“The Restless Wave PDF Summary”

On July 14, 2017, John McCain, the senior Senator from Arizona, went to the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix to remove a blood clot above his left eye.

The surgical procedure went well, but the laboratory results announced five days later left a bitter taste in the mouth of many: John McCain was suffering from a very aggressive brain tumor, the one which eventually claimed the life of his one-time opponent and long-time friend, Ted Kennedy.

Unfortunately, even with treatment, the average survival time for cancers of the kind is about 14 months.

One year later, McCain is still around, fully aware of his own mortality and overwhelmed with feelings and “accumulated memories.”

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” writes the 82-year old one-time President nominee in “The Restless Wave,” just published:

Maybe I’ll have another five years. Maybe, with the advances in oncology, they’ll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you read this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable. But I’m prepared for either contingency, or at least I’m getting prepared. I have some things I’d like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing, and some people I need to see. And I want to talk to my fellow Americans a little more if I may.

And talk he does.

About everything from the aftereffects of the September 11 attacks through his losing campaign against Barack Obama in 2008 to Donald Trump and the supposed interference of Russia in the American 2016 elections.

And one gets the feeling that none of this is done with an intention to share the wisdom of old age and the insights of a life-long political career; it seems as if “The Restless Wave” exists solely for the sake of memories and for the likely benefit of future generations.

Bearing in mind that it’s McCain we’re talking about (the son and grandson of four-star admirals, and a Vietnamese prisoner of war for six years), unsurprisingly – albeit probably unintentionally – the one idea which pervades the book is his love for America and his belief in its values.

In a way, some episodes of the book read as if John McCain is trying to give an answer to Samuel Huntington’s still thought-provoking question “Who Are We?”

Take, for example, the 9/11 attacks.

McCain was in his office when one of the planes crashed into the Pentagon and, being a war veteran himself, fully understands the anger which followed, and even the logic behind the authorities’ decision to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EIT) to obtain relevant information from captured terrorists.

However, understanding the logic of something doesn’t mean agreeing with it.

Having experienced severe torture as a POW himself, McCain was one of the people on the frontline in the fight against the use of EIT for detainees in the War on Terror.

In “The Restless Wave” he explains succinctly why the matter was so important to him:

Some might read this and say to themselves, “Who gives a damn what happened to a terrorist after what they did on September 11?” But it’s not about them. It never was. What makes us exceptional? Our wealth? Our natural resources? Our military power? Our big, bountiful country?

No, our founding ideals and our fidelity to them at home and in our conduct in the world make us exceptional. They are the source of wealth and power. Living under the rule of law. Facing threats with confidence that our values make us stronger than our enemies. Acting as an example to other nations of how free people defend their liberty without sacrificing the moral conviction upon which it is based, respect for the dignity possessed by all God’s children, even our enemies. This is what made us the great nation that we are.

McCain has a point when he talks about the War in Iraq as well.

In a nutshell, he firmly supported the necessity of a war against Iraq – and one which will lead to a successful conclusion – once intelligence reports had demonstrated that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

However, once that turned out to be untrue, it’s only fair to say that the US made a big mistake starting the war.

And if one mistake wasn’t enough – goes on McCain – Obama made another when he decided to pull all American troops out of Iraq.

This, however, meant regional insurgencies, a new wave of terrorist attacks and the revival of Iran’s interest for Iraq.

True, McCain is optimistic about the future of the Asian country, but one feels that his very own analysis is too pessimistic for his positivity to make any sense.

But, then again, we hope that we are in the wrong.

Key Lessons from “The Restless Wave”

1.      The Overwhelming Burden of Accumulated Memories
2.      Know Thyself: America’s Exceptionalism
3.      Know Thine Enemy: Russia’s Interference

The Overwhelming Burden of Accumulated Memories

When John McCain found out that he was suffering from terminal brain cancer a year ago, he started feeling the weight of his accumulated memories.

Neither back then nor today he has any idea of how much time he has left ahead of him.

But once he dies, as the replicant Roy Batty movingly remarks in the final scene of “Blade Runner,” all the remarkable moments of his life “will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

Fortunately, books can help us save at least some of them.

Hence “The Restless Wave.”

Know Thyself: America’s Exceptionalism

America, the first new nation of the world, is exceptional.

It is the leading country of the world in many aspects, and the one many Western countries look up to.

So, it must act in accordance with this reality.

In other words, there should be no episodes of torture (Guantanamo Bay) or faked intelligence (the Iraq War) in the grand story of America.

These are disastrous “breaches of American ideals” and have already stained its reputation.

We must not allow others to even think of repeating them in the future.

Know Thine Enemy: Russia’s Interference

Some time ago, McCain had an intimate discussion with a former British diplomat with links to Putin who told him that a retired British intelligence officer has information which conclusively proves that the Russians have a dossier of Trump with data which can be used to blackmail him.

After obtaining the “dossier,” McCain, always the fervent (but also the naïve) believer in the integrity of American institutions, handed the files to the FBI.

He believes that FBI and Robert Mueller will do the right thing.

Our intuition says: “Nyet.”

Though we would like to be wrong on this one as well.

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“The Restless Wave Quotes”

We have made mistakes. We haven’t always used our power wisely. We have abused it sometimes and we’ve been arrogant. But, as often as not, we recognized those wrongs, debated them openly, and tried to do better. Click To Tweet

The good we have done for humanity surpasses the damage caused by our errors. Click To Tweet

We have sought to make the world more stable and secure, not just our own society. We have advanced norms and rules of international relations that have benefited all. Click To Tweet

For reasons of basic self-interest we must continue to lead the long, patient effort to make the world freer and more just. Click To Tweet

We live in a land made from ideals, not blood and soil. We are custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

John McCain’s “The Restless Wave” is a deeply personal book, casting a nostalgically critical eye on the past and a hopeful one to the future.

Part memoir, part autobiography, “The Restless Wave” may be McCain’s “final public act,” one that will hopefully serve as “a self-help manual for a country that has, at least for the moment, lost its way.” (“The Washington Post”)    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

Democracy for Realists PDF Summary

Democracy for Realists PDFWhy Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government

Hey, remember when we told you that the Ancient Greeks believed democracy to be the second worst way to organize a country?

And, then, when we took, with Condoleezza Rice, the very opposing view, according to which it is humanity’s best way to counter totalitarianism.

Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels are here to diligently compare both sides of the argument.

What they end up with is a new theory of democracy, a “Democracy for Realists.”

Who Should Read “Democracy for Realists”? And Why?

In “Democracy for Realists,” Achen and Bartels do their best to transform the popular understanding of democracy.

And, according to none other than Robert D. Putnam, they do this so well, that “anyone interested in democratic theory and American politics” should be all but obliged to read it.

We share his conviction.

About Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels

Christopher H. Achen Christopher H. Achen is a professor in the Politics Department at Princeton University, primarily interested in democracy, elections, and public opinion.

He has (co-)authored few highly regarded books, including “The Taiwan Voter” (with T. Y. Wang).

Larry M. BartelsLarry M. Bartels is an American political scientist.

He holds the May Werthan Shayne Chair of Public Policy and Social Science at Vanderbilt University.

He has also authored “Unequal Democracy.”

Both Achen and Bartels are members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“Democracy for Realists PDF Summary”

Whether direct, representative or constitutional, democracy is always about the value of the individual citizen, i.e., about his right to exercise his power by voting.

As such, it is, by popular opinion, the best political system there was, is and can be.

How can it not be?

It is basically the only system where the individual citizen matters and in which, even if merely by proxy, he actually governs.

And regular people – or so the popular opinion goes – should have this power, since almost every political decision affects them directly.

Unfortunately, if there’s one thing that history has taught us, it is certainly this: popular opinions are often little more than delusions!

And according to Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels, the aforedescribed “folk theory of democracy” is just another example of them.

In fact, the strange thing is – but isn’t it so with every delusion – how nobody seems to be aware of this.

Because you don’t need a study (though the authors provide thousands of them) to realize that democracy has just about never worked in practice:

The folk theory of democracy is like the ether theory of electromagnetic and gravitational forces: It is based on 19th-century intellectual foundations, and the empirical evidence has passed it by.

Yes, you’ve read that right:

Believing in democracy is not much different from believing that all matter is composed of the four classical elements or that the Earth is flat!


Well, to get straight to the main problem, let us quote (with an even lengthier excerpt) an author Achen and Bartels quote themselves, Robert Luskin:

There now seems to be near consensus that by anything approaching elite standards, most citizens think and know jaw-droppingly little about politics…

The average American’s ability to place the Democratic and Republican parties and ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ correctly on issue dimensions and the two parties on a liberal-conservative dimension scarcely exceeds and indeed sometimes falls short of what could be achieved by blind guessing. The verdict is stunningly, depressingly clear: most people know very little about politics…

In other words – and this is, once more, according to verifiable studies and statistical data – in most cases (which means, more than 50%), voters don’t know what they are voting for or against.

Rational thinking has nothing to do with either politics or democracy: Democrats are Democrats because their parents and grandparents had been Democrats; Republicans are Republicans because their parents and grandparents had been Republicans.

It’s basically as simple as that!

People vote for someone because spiritually and emotionally they feel like they belong in his or her party – not the other way around.

In layman’s terms, a large percentage of people decide who they are going to vote for on loyalty alone. And they become loyal to someone not because they’ve read their programs and know their policies, but because of the family they are born, because of the way the politicians speak and/or look like, or because of their beliefs on a single, sometimes utterly unimportant, issue.

Facts don’t matter one bit: especially not in the long run!

Because, just as in most other spheres, people are strangely myopic in politics as well – that is, they base their decisions not on long-term goals or serious analysis of a politician’s past behavior, but on short-range objectives and the politician’s results from the last half a year.

And sometimes, it’s even worse.

Way worse!

That is, more often than not, people vote against someone retroactively because of things he/she had no control over.

For example, back in 1916, a great white shark killed five people in New Jersey, and, suddenly, 10% of the people living in its beach communities lost their belief in the politics of then-president Woodrow Wilson.

Even stranger, almost a century after this, Al Gore lost 2.8 million voters because of the floods and droughts of 2000!

Ironically – since Al Gore won a Nobel Peace Prize seven years later exactly because of his climate change activism.

And here’s the worst part of democracy:

Because of all of the above, as stated in the subtitle of Achen’s and Bartels’ game-changing book, elections don’t produce responsive governments.

Why should they?

Incumbents are fully aware that their platforms don’t need to match their actions: either way, for their loyal voters, they’ll remain what they had been before (keyword: cognitive dissonance).

And even the most serious scandals will be forgotten or dulled in time.

So, is there a way out?


It starts with doing away with the outdated folk theory of democracy.

Ironically, as long as we believe that people have power in democratic societies, elites will profit, and people will be on the losing end of history.

Key Lessons from “Democracy for Realists”

1.      The Folk Theory of Democracy Has Nothing to Do with Experience or Reality
2.      In Democracy, Facts Don’t Matter: Gender, Religion, and Ethnicity Do
3.      Voters Suffer from Foolishness and Short Sightedness

The Folk Theory of Democracy Has Nothing to Do with Experience or Reality

The “folk theory of democracy,” rooted in the belief of the Enlightenment that people are rational beings, is “the idea that citizens make coherent and intelligible policy decisions, on which governments then act.”

However, in practice, this couldn’t be further from the truth!

As we can easily deduce from a simple historical analysis, people are incapable of making the right choices, allowing politicians to be utterly uninterested in working for their benefit.

Just think about this way:

Most of the bad governments you’ve heard about were chosen by people.

Yes, that includes Hitler!

In Democracy, Facts Don’t Matter: Gender, Religion, and Ethnicity Do

Voting has little to do with facts and platforms.

In fact, studies have shown that your voting behavior is largely already decided and there’s a little chance that it will ever change.

Cases in point:

True, the issue of abortion resulted in many women abandoning the Republic party, but most men merely (and quite suddenly) changed their views once their Party did: it just didn’t concern them personally.

Also, during the 1960s, people supported the Kennedys only if they had a good feeling about Catholicism.

Finally, whether Boston voters supported Roosevelt’s New Deal policies depended much on their ethnicity.

And little on their understanding of it.

Voters Suffer from Foolishness and Short Sightedness

Most voters, says Robert Luskin, “know jaw-droppingly little about politics.”

But, they still vote.

And, usually, they make a decision based on their experience from the six months leading up to the election.

An analysis of 16 US presidential elections uncovered a convincing correlation between income growth and voting behavior.

However, even economists don’t know why your wages increase sometimes. It turns out that if this happens while someone is in power, you’ll vote for him once again, forgetting about almost everything else during his/her rule, be it racial injustice or crimes against humanity.

Don’t believe us?

Well, that’s basically how Hitler won in 1932.

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“Democracy for Realists Quotes”

Elections are capricious collective decisions based on considerations that ought, from the viewpoint of the folk theory, to be largely irrelevant. Click To Tweet

Democracy is the justifying political ideology of our era. Click To Tweet

The history of democratic thought – including much contemporary political science – is marked by an addiction to romantic theories. Click To Tweet

For most ordinary citizens, ideology is – at best – a byproduct of more basic partisan and group loyalties. Click To Tweet

Most people make their party choices based on who they are rather than on what they think. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

“Democracy for Realists” aims to shatter the idealist myth of the always-perfect democratic system, showing convincingly that it is not backed by either history or science.

And, if you ask us, it does this in such a powerful way, that it is really not an exaggeration to say, with John Dilulio, that it’s “the single most important treatise on American democracy published in several decades.”    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

The Last Empire PDF Summary

The Last Empire PDFThe Final Days of the Soviet Union

When the Roman Empire was at the height of its power, it was torn apart by corruption and hypocrisy.

Perhaps, the same thing happened here, but the Soviet Leadership had no courage to acknowledge their mistakes.

We encapsulate the events that shaped the course of history!

Who Should Read “The Last Empire”? And Why?

Who would have imagined that the World War 2 winner and the once Mighty Socialist State would collapse under the slogan – freedom of speech.

The Last Empire is much more than a political overview of the dissolution of the USSR. It signifies the birth of new life and the idea of embracing individuality.

We find it suitable for all history lovers, especially those who once felt the grip of the Communist Party.

About Serhii Plokhii

Serhii Plokhii

Serhii Plokhii is an American Historian of Ukrainian origins, born on 23rd May 1957 in Nizhniy Novgorod. He specialized in the Cold War and teaches Ukrainian History at Harvard University.

He has many of his works published such as Tsars and Cossacks, The Cossacks and Religion in Early Modern Ukraine, The Gates of Europe, Chernobyl, etc.

“The Last Empire PDF Summary”

Before we take the plot as far as the end of the 90s, it was pivotal to explain the first-ever October Revolution on November 7th, 1917. The mighty Russian Empire at the time, which was mainly an agricultural country, collapsed due to the Bolshevik Coup led by Vladimir Lenin.

The communist members and admirers overthrew Nicholas II and killed his family. In the following years, the new Social State remain focused on Counter-Revolutionary activities which were administered by the “Whites” – or the aristocracy.

The fear of both “Real” and “Fictional” enemies as the essence of Soviet Ideology was deeply embedded in the minds of the ordinary citizens. The Cheka – or the first ever Soviet Secret Police, which reported directly to Lenin, received orders to show no mercy in defeating the Whites.

Most of them fled the country, never to return again, and Stalin’s spies executed others in the years before the war. The Allied invasion in Normandy and the opening of the Western Front made Hitler’s Germany see its last summer.

In April 1945, Allies agreed to meet to decide the fate of Post-War Germany. The Potsdam Conference held at Cecilienhof can be labeled as the missing link in defeating Nazism. Allies agreed that Germany should be demilitarized, denazification, decentralization, decartelization and democratization.

All captured Nazis had to face justice, in the famous Nuremberg Trials. Germany was divided into Occupation Zones, Britain, France and the U.S. took the Western Areas, and the Soviets formed the Eastern Bloc. That marked the beginning of the Cold War.

It’s said that history is written by the winners. This book tells the whole story of the Soviet Collapse, and how American Administration reacted to the downfall of the Communist Bloc. It covers the period from August 1991, until Yeltsin’s rise to power.

Mikhail Gorbachev decision to dissolve the Soviet Union came as a shock to KGB and the other members of the Politburo, who refused to take part in such actions. The iron fist of the once mighty empire had turned into a trembling hand.

The plot to overthrow the Premier of the Soviet Union was devised by his closest inner circle called the Gang of Eight. The opposers to reforms received international support by the other Communist States, while Gorbachov had the trust of the European Union and President Bush.

In the following months, violence was bruising all across the Soviet Territory. The nation was decentralized, and the other Republics received growing support in creating their internal and foreign policies.

The rising tension and the strain between the newly established Russian society and the West was another thing to be worried about. Mikhail Gorbachev opened the curtain; putting an end to 50 years of rivalry between two opposing ideologies.

According to Plokhy, this period was, in fact, the toughest for the people of all republics. A transition economy followed by modified internal policies attempted to speed up the progress of the newly formed countries. The historical era of the Soviet Union remained in the past.

Several years after the disintegration, experts reveal shocking, detailed info regarding the complex events that took place in the midsts of Soviet Crisis. Serhii Plokhii tracks records and interprets documents that stand as a proof, of how the collapse emerged and what triggered it.

In this book, you’ll receive a full psychological and ideological profile of Soviet Leaders – Yeltsin and Gorbachev in particular. The author doesn’t sidestep other big players in the arena such as U.S. President George H. W. Bush and the cunning Ukrainian President and diplomat Leonid Kravchuk.

Their roles in the Coup are not exaggerated but rather accurately described so that people will finally get the big picture of what caused the breaking up from within.

In addition, the Bush administration wasn’t too fond of Soviet Dissolution. Although they announced victory in the Cold War, many experts feared that Soviet Nuclear Arsenal would fall into the hands of hostile individuals and groups who could pose a threat to the United States.

Therefore, they advocated for centralized Power, which would eventually lead to a gradual democratization of the state.

The efforts to preserve the Soviet Union were in vain. After months of struggle, much of the countries which formed the great Socialist State – voted for independence. The Russian Federation emerged from the ashes, ready to turn a new leaf in history.

Key Lessons from “The Last Empire”

1.      The new beginning of history
2.      Is democracy the only way?
3.      An ambiguous anecdote

The new beginning of history

According to European leaders, Putin is a modern dictator who doesn’t face any real opposition during elections. Some argue that these allegations are made only to destabilize the Russian Society.

Anyway, we can’t say for certain who is right or wrong, but it’s evident that Russian Economy is definitely showing signs of progression and expansion.

Is democracy the only way?

Aristotle also questioned democracy as a way of governing a country. Perhaps, some cultures are not equally adjustable to such way of life.

In our opinion, democracy is a way to impose foreign influence into a sovereign country. A state that has been proved on numerous occasions. The strong threatens the weak all in the hopes of peace and prosperity.

An ambiguous anecdote

It’s terrible when the wolf and the sheep decide what’s for lunch. In other words, if we campaign for such ideology, the social difference gap will continue to grow.

It’s best if we embrace some basic moral principles to improve the well-being of all people.

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Our Critical Review

When writing about events which share an emotional and ideological value to the reader, you must remain impartial.

We followed the same logic while writing this amazing summary. We really hope you like it and learn something from it.    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF: