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In the months before redistribution began, the Ministry of Agriculture estimated there were 250,000 cases of landlords attempting to retain their land by taking it back from their tenants. But the land committees, which were required to review all transfers that attempted to circumvent land reform, managed to reverse almost all of them. Despite this, only 110 incidents of violence between landlords and tenants were reported in the reform years 1947–8 and not one life was lost. The agricultural historian Ronald Dore remarks: ‘The very fact that it [the reform] was imposed from outside was a powerful factor in making the land reform a peaceful and orderly one. Tenants could take over the land, not with the light of revolution in their eyes but half-apologetically, as if it hurt them more than it hurt their landlords, for the cause was not in themselves but in a law for which they bore no responsibility either personally or collectively.’

How Asia Works

Joe Studwell

The Age of Shopping The modern capitalist economy must constantly increase production if it is to survive, like a shark that must swim or suffocate. Yet it’s not enough just to produce. Somebody must also buy the products, or industrialists and investors alike will go bust. To prevent this catastrophe and to make sure that people will always buy whatever new stuff industry produces, a new kind of ethic appeared: consumerism. Most people throughout history lived under conditions of scarcity. Frugality was thus their watchword. The austere ethics of the Puritans and Spartans are but two famous examples. A good person avoided luxuries, never threw food away, and patched up torn trousers instead of buying a new pair. Only kings and nobles allowed themselves to renounce such values publicly and conspicuously flaunt their riches. Consumerism sees the consumption of ever more products and services as a positive thing. It encourages people to treat themselves, spoil themselves, and even kill themselves slowly by overconsumption. Frugality is a disease to be cured. You don’t have to look far to see the consumer ethic in action – just read the back of a cereal box.

Sapiens

Yuval Noah Harari

Do you play pool?” Ding walked to the pool table. “I used to play a little in college.” “She and I loved to play. It reminded us of particles colliding in the accelerator.” Ding picked up two balls: one black and one white. He set the black ball next to one of the pockets, and placed the white ball about ten centimeters from the black ball. “Can you pocket the black ball?” “This close? Anyone can do it.” “Try.” Wang picked up the cue, struck the white ball lightly, and drove the black ball into the pocket. “Good. Come, now let’s move the table to a different location.” Ding directed the confused Wang to pick up the heavy table. Together they moved it to another corner of the living room, next to a window. Then Ding scooped out the black ball, set it next to the pocket, and again picked up the white ball and set it down about ten centimeters away. “Think you can do it again?” “Of course.” “Go for it.” Again, Wang easily made the shot. Ding waved his hands. “Let’s move it again.” They lifted the table and set it down in a third corner of the living room. Ding set up the two balls as before. “Go.” “Listen, we—” “Go!” Wang shrugged helplessly. He managed to pocket the black ball a third time. They moved the table two more times: once next to the door of the living room, and finally back to the original location. Ding set up the two balls twice more, and Wang twice more made his shot. By now both were slightly winded. “Good, that’s the conclusion of the experiment. Let’s analyze the results.” Ding lit a cigarette before continuing, “We ran the same experiment five times. Four of the experiments differed in both location and time. Two of the experiments were at the same location but different times. Aren’t you shocked by the results?” He opened his arms exaggeratedly. “Five times! Every colliding experiment yielded the exact same result!” “What are you trying to say?” Wang asked, gasping. “Can you explain this incredible result? Please use the language of physics.” “All right … During these five experiments, the mass of the two balls never changed. In terms of their locations, as long as we’re using the frame of reference of the tabletop, there was also no change. The velocity of the white ball striking the black ball also remained basically the same throughout. Thus, the transfer of momentum between the two balls didn’t change. Therefore, in all five experiments, the result was the black ball being driven into the pocket.” Ding picked up a bottle of brandy and two dirty glasses from the floor. He filled both and handed one to Wang. Wang declined. “Come on, let’s celebrate. We’ve discovered a great principle of nature: The laws of physics are invariant across space and time. All the physical laws of human history, from Archimedes’ principle to string theory, and all the scientific discoveries and intellectual fruits of our species are the by-products of this great law. Compared to us two theoreticians, Einstein and Hawking are mere applied engineers.”

The Three-Body Problem

Cixin Liu and Ken Liu

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