History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.
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History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.

-Napoléon Bonaparte

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Religion has clearly performed great services for human civilization. It has contributed much towards the taming of the asocial instincts. But not enough. It has ruled human society for many thousands of years and has had time to show what it can achieve. If it had succeeded in making the majority of mankind happy, in comforting them, in reconciling them to life and in making them into vehicles of civilization, no one would dream of attempting to alter the existing conditions. But what do we see instead? We see that an appallingly large number of people are dissatisfied with civilization and unhappy in it, and feel it as a yoke which must be shaken off; and that these people either do everything in their power to change that civilization, or else go so far in their hostility to it that they will have nothing to do with civilization or with a restriction of instinct. At this point it will be objected against us that this state of affairs is due to the very fact that religion has lost a part of its influence over human masses precisely because of the deplorable effect of the advances of science. We will note this admission and the reason given for it, and we shall make use of it later for our own purposes; but the objection itself has no force.It is doubtful whether men were in general happier at a time when religious doctrines held unrestricted sway; more moral they certainly were not. They have always known how to externalize the precepts of religion and thus to nullify their intentions. The priests, whose duty it was to ensure obedience to religion, met them half-way in this. God's kindness must lay a restraining hand on His justice. One sinned, and then one made a sacrifice or did penance and then one was free to sin once more. Russian introspectiveness has reached the pitch of concluding that sin is indispensable for the enjoyment of all the blessings of divine grace, so that, at bottom, sin is pleasing to God. It is no secret that the priests could only keep the masses submissive to religion by making such large concessions as these to the instinctual nature of man. Thus it was agreed: God alone is strong and good, man is weak and sinful. In every age immorality has found no less support in religion than morality has. If the achievements of religion in respect to man’s happiness, susceptibility to culture and moral control are no better than this, the question cannot but arise whether we are not overrating its necessity for mankind, and whether we do wisely in basing our cultural demands upon it.

-Sigmund Freud

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The 9/11 Commission warned that Al Qaeda "could... scheme to wield weapons of unprecedented destructive power in the largest cities of the United States." Future attacks could impose enormous costs on the entire economy. Having used up the surplus that the country enjoyed as part of the Cold War peace dividend, the U.S. government is in a weakened financial position to respond to another major terrorist attack, and its position will be damaged further by the large budget gaps and growing dependence on foreign capital projected for the future. As the historian Paul Kennedy wrote in his book The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, too many decisions made in Washington today "bring merely short-term advantage but long-term disadvantage." The absence of a sound, long-term financial strategy could bring about a deterioration that, in his words, "leads to the downward spiral of slower growth, heavier taxes, deepening domestic splits over spending priorities and a weakening capacity to bear the burdens of defense."Decades of success in mobilizing enormous sums of money to fight large wars and meet other government needs have led Americans to believe that ample funds will be readily available in the event of a future war, terrorist attack, or other emergency. But that can no longer be assumed. Budget constraints could limit the availability or raise the cost of resources to deal with new emergencies. If government debt continues to pile up, deficits rise to stratospheric levels, and heave dependence on foreign capital grows, borrowing the money needed will be very costly. [Alexander] Hamilton understood the risks of such a precarious situation. After suffering through financial shortages, lack of adequate food and weapons, desertions, and collapsing morale during the Revolution, he considered the risk that the government would have difficulty in assembling funds to defend itself all too real. If America remains on its dangerous financial course, Hamilton's gift to the nation - the blessing of sound finances - will be squandered.The U.S. government had no higher obligation that to protect the security of its citizens. Doing so becomes increasingly difficult if its finances are unsound. While the nature of this new brand of warfare, the war on terrorism, remains uncharted, there is much to be gained if our leaders look to the experiences of the past for guidance in responding to the challenges of the future. The willingness of the American people and their leaders to ensure that the nation's finances remain sound in the face of these new challenges - sacrificing parochial interests for the common good - is the price we must pay to preserve the nation's security and thus the liberties that Hamilton and his generation bequeathed us.

-Robert Hormats

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