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【English/日本語】Read an English book📖英語の本を読もう📚Sapiens―chapter#16 Capitalism

英語でSapiens を読もう📖#16


For English learners!

Hello everyone, how’s your English learning journey going?😃 Reading an English book is sometimes a long journey. You might inadvertently stop if you are alone. But no worries. You are at the right place already. I would like to explore an English book here so that you can try reading the book with me. We are not alone. Let’s enjoy a fun time reading!

The book, which I picked up this time, is called Sapiens, published by Yuval Noah Harari. The Amazon Kindle link below allows you to read up to chapter 3. Today, I am covering chapter 16.

You can check out my recommending strategy of reading as well as a bit of information about this book with a link below. Okay then, let’s get started📖






Ch.16 The Capitalist Creed

🦧第16章 拡大するパイという資本主義のマジック

Grasp the structure!🦧構成を把握する

To grasp the chapter, you just try to see its hierarchical configuration. I strongly recommend drawing it either physically or virtually.


Production per capita
  • most of history: production per capita remained static
  • in 1500: $550 production per capita
  • today: $8,800 production per capita
Like a giant Ponzi scheme
  • a bank issue money, by crediting one’s account with that sum; trust in the future
  • it’s not a deception but rather a tribute to the amazing abilities of the human imagination
  • the entire enterprise is founded on trust in an imaginary future
Money: past and today
  • Past
    • money could represent and convert only things that actually existed.
    • humankind was trapped in predicament for thousands of years.
    • economies remained frozen.
    • a zero-sum game; the profits of someone might rise, but only at the expense of another one.
    • The pie never got any bigger.
    • making bundles of money was sinful
    • the expectation of stagnation fulfilled
  • Today
    • discovered a new system based on trust in the future.
    • agreed to represent imaginary goods
    • assumption: our future resources are sure to be far more abundant than our present resources

 🚧工事中 🚧

Adam Smith
  • in 1776, published The Wealth of Nations.
  • the most important economics manifesto
  • the most revolutionary idea that the selfish human urge to increase private profits is the basis for collective wealth
  • a moral and political perspective that greed is good; Egoism is altruism; a ‘win-win’ situation
  • denied the traditional contradiction between wealth and morality
  • profits ought to be reinvested in production
  • the nobility has been overtaken by capitalists
The premodern economy
  • production was more or less constant
  • medieval noblemen espoused an ethic of generosity and conspicuous consumption
    • tournaments
    • banquets
    • palaces
    • wars
    • charity
    • monumental cathedrals
Who’s capitalist
  • board chairmen
  • stock traders
  • industrialists, managers
  • less interested in extravagant consumption; non-productive activities
  • goverments; strive to invest tax revenues to make more taxable income, such as investing in education
  • reinvesting profits in production leads to fast economic growth
  • not only an economic doctrine but also an ethic; teaching how people should behave, educate their children, and even think.
  • economic growth is the supreme good; justice, freedome, and even happiness all depend on economic growth.
  • this new religion has had a decisive influence on the development of modern science
  • hoping that scientists come up with another discovery or gadget before the bubble bursts

 🚧工事中 🚧

What made a difference?
  • Chinese, Muslim, or Indian
    • far more capital than Europeans
    • credit played only a secondary role
    • the kings and generals didn’t think capitalist way
  • Europeans
    • the kings and generals gradually adopted the mercantile way of thinking
    • the European conquest of the world was financed through credit rather than taxes
Christopher Columbus
  • in 1484, approached potential investors with the proposal of finding a new trade route to East Asia
  • managed to concince Queen Isabella to invest, and she hit the jackpot
  • Columbus’ discoveries enabled the Spaniards to conquer America and enriched the Spaniards.
    • gold and silver mines
    • sugar and tabaco plantations
  • it contributed to extend far more credit to the successors
    • credit financed new discoveries
    • discoveries led to colonies
    • colonies provided profits
Joint-stock companies
  • to increase the number of potential investors
  • to reduce the risk they incurred
  • a sophisticated financial system that could raise efficiently large amounts of credit on short notice
Netherlands’s strength
  • Spain
    • the most powerful state in the 16th century, holding sway over a vast global empire
    • financed by raising umpopular taxes from a disgruntled populace
  • Netherlands
    • a small corner of the king of Spain’s dominions, devoid of natural resources
    • within 80 years, secured their independence, mustered the ocean highways, and became the richest state.
    • set up armies and fleets with European financial system
      • stickelers about repaying loan on time in full
      • judical system protected private rights
      • Dutch merchants were the mainstay of\ the Dutch Empire.
  • VOC: the most famous Dutch joint-stock company, the Vereenigde oostindische zcompagnie
  • raised money from selling shares to build ships, send them to Asia, bring back Chinese, Indian, and Indonesian goods.
  • financed military actions taken by company ships against competitors and pirates
  • financed the conquest of Indonesia and fought against local potentates to secure their commercial interests and maximise the profits
  • it was common for private companies to hire not only soldiers, but also generals and admirals, cannons, and ships, and even entire off-the shelf armies.
  • the international community took it for granted when a private company established an empire; a large part of Indonesia became a VOC colony and VOC ruled there fore nearly 200 years.
  • only in 1800 did the Dutch state made it a Dutch national colony for the following 150 years
  • the example of how far that can go if businesses pursued their self-interest unchecked
  • As the 17th century wound to an end, the complacency and costly continental wars caused the Dutch to lose tehir place as European’s financial and imperial engine.
Mississippi Bubble
  • France proved itself anworthy.
  • the Mississippi Company was chartered in 1717
  • set out to colonize the lower Mississippi valley, establishing the city of New Orleans in the process
  • King Louis XV sold shares
  • the company’s director was the governor of the central bank of France
  • the company spread tales of fabulous riches and boundless opportunities, and the urban bourgeoisie fell for these fantasies
  • some speculators realized and sold out at the peak, and the price declined and plummeted further, then the central bank of France bought up Mississippi shares and ran out of its money and printed money.
  • one of history’s most spectacular financial crashes
  • its political clout to manipulate share price and fule the buying frenzy caused the public to lose faith in the French banking system and in the financial wisdome of the French king.
  • the overseas French Empire fell into British hands since France had difficulities securing loans and had to pay high interest on them.
  • Louis XVI vonvened the Estates General and it led to the French Revolution.
the British East India Company
  • The company outperformed even the VOC.
  • it ruled a mighty Indian empire for about a century, maintaining a huge military force of up to 350,000 soldiers, considerably outnumbering the armed forces of the British monarchy.
  • only in 1858 did the British crown nationalize india along with the company’s private army.

 🚧工事中 🚧

Ex.1: the First Opium War
  • fought between Britain and China (1840-42)
  • sundry British business people made fortunes by exporting opium to China
  • making millions of Chinese addicts and debilitating China
  • Chinese government issued a ban on drug trafficking
  • British drug merchants ignored the law
  • many politisians held stock in the drug companies and led the British government to take action for ‘free trade’
  • the overconfident Chinese were no match for Britin’s new wonder weapons
  • China agreed not to constrain the trade and gave the control of Hong Kong
  • in the late 19th century, 1/10 the country’s population were opium addicts
Ex.2: Egypt’s lesson
  • financed the Suez Canal project and funded less successful enterprises, then European creditors increasingly meddled in Egyptian affairs
  • Egyptian nationalists declared a unilateral abrogation of all foreign debt
  • Britain dispatched the army and navy to the Nile, and Egypt remained a British protectorate until WWII
Ex.3: Greek’s lesson
  • in 1821, Greeks rebelled against the Ottoman Empire
  • London financiers saw an opportunity and proposed to the rebel leaders the issue of tradable Greek Rebellion Bonds
  • With a rebel defeat imminent, the bondholders faced the prospect of losing their trousers
  • the British organaized an international fleet and sank the main Ottoman flotilla in the Battle of Navariono
  • Greece was finally free with a huge debt, and the Greek economy was mortgaged to British creditors for decades.
Capitalism’s contribution
  • wars were fought in the interests of investors
  • a war became a commodity
  • the bear hug between capital and politics has had far-reaching implications for credit market.
  • the amount of credit is determined by political events as well as economic factors
  • British capitalists were more willing to invest in risky overseas deals because Her Majesty’s army would get their money back
  • a country’s credit rating weigh:
    • more on economic well-being; the probability of repayment
    • less on its natural resources
    • more on a fair judical system
    • more on a free government
    • less on a despotic government

 🚧工事中 🚧

The free-market doctrine
  • economic policy is to keep politics out of the economy
    • reduce taxation
    • minimize the government regulation
    • allow market forces free rein to take their course
  • private investors invest their money where they can get the most profit
  • the economic growth benefit everyone
  • the most common and influential variant of the capitalist creed
Trust has to be protected
  • the trust in the future is constantly threatened by thieves and charlatans because markets offer no protection against fraud, theft, and violence
  • it requires to legislate sanctions against cheats and to support police forces, courts, and jails, which will enforce the law
  •  🚧工事中 🚧

the dangerous aspects of capitalism
  • avaricious capitalists can establish monopolies or collude against their workforces
  • greedy bosses might curtail workers’ freedome of movement through debt peonage or slavery
  • the Atrantic slave trade were responsible not on tyrannical kings or racist ideologues, but on unrestrained market forces
The Atlantic Slave Trade
  • sugar was arare luxury in Europe
  • sugar plantations were established in America
  • entrepreneurs produced huge quantities of sweets and boosted sugar intake of Europeans from near zero in the 17th century to 8 kg in the 19th century
  • European plantation owners imported slaves; 70% of them worked on the sugar plantation
  • most slaves lived a short and miserable life so that Europeans could enjoy their sweet tea and candy
  • the slave trade was not controlled by any state or government
  • the shareholders were very pleased this high profitable arrangement; 6% per year
incapability of Capitalism
  • it cannot ensure that profits are gained in a fair way, or distributed in a fair manner
  • the craving to increase profits and production blinds people to anything that might stand in the way
  • growth becomes a supreme good and easily lead to catastrophe, crimes, and misdemeanours
What killed people
  • Christianity and Nazism killed millions out of nurning hatred
  • Capitalism killed millions out of indifference and greed
Congo Free State
  • a nongovernmental humanitarian oganizasion aimed to exploring Central Africa and fighting the slave trade
  • controled 2.3 million squre km of Congo basin
  • the humanitarian organization became a business enterprise
  • the Congo basin was filled with mines and plantations
  • the African villagers forced to provide higher rubber quotas
  • when they failed, they were punished or massacred, costing the lives of 6 million individuals: at least 20% of Congo’s population
Is it a colossal fraud?
  • Capitalist greed was somewhat reined in due to the fear of Communism after 1945
  • many African peasants and Indonesian laborers return home after a hard day’s work with less food than did their ancestors 500 years ago
  • theory1: capitalism has created a world that nobody but a capitalist is capable of running
  • theory2: we just need more patience to get to the paradice
  • some positive signs
    • life expectancy
    • child mortality
    • calorie intake
    • the standard of living

Summarize the chapter concisely🦧章を一言でまとめる

To summarize, check the hierarchical configuration and make sentences with important points of each.


Modern economic history is about growth. Although production per capita remained static in most of history, it has grown thanks to credit. Trust in the future with the assumption that in the future there be more abundant resources enables us to agree with imaginary goods. People believe that if we admit our ignorance and invest resources in research, things can improve and that the invention can increase production, trade, and wealth. Trust in the future created credit, and credit has brought real economic growth and strengthened trust further. Modern science is always relied on discovering a new industry before the bubble bursts.

How did Capitalism play a decisive role in the emergence of European imperialism? European imperialism grew the capitalist credit system and it led to the embrace of capitalism and empire. Companies pulled the strings of power and count on the state to look after their interests as if the government was their trade union. Capitalists exploited the imperial military to ensure their profits, and capitalism contributed to colonization. Capitalists argue that governments should not interfere in the market. However, the markets need political protection to ensure their trust. It is dangerous to give markets completely free rein. Growth can blind people, lead to causing a catastrophe, as capitalism killed people in a different way from Christianity or Nazism did.



Make questions to discuss🦧ディスカッション用の質問を作ろう

To discuss, make questions. It gives you a great topic to talk about in English.


Evaluative question 全体的な評価についての質問

What does it mean? How are the parts connected? what is the reason for people’s actions?

There is more than one possible answer, but the viewer’s opinion is based directly on the text.



My opinion: This chapter explores eye-opening capitalism’s notorious aspect. One thing I can tell is that it really needs restrictions and protection. Also, as the author mentioned, we simply don’t have an alternative plan to keep our society run. My answer is that capitalism itself cannot make the world better on its own, and it depends on how much Sapiens come up with ideas to make it work. I hope globalization makes some enforcement for a fairer society.


five questions for discussion🦧ディスカッション用の5つの質問

How does this make me feel? What does it remind me of?

There are many correct answers that are related to one’s experience; they can be found outside of the text/speech.

  • Have you ever…?
  • Does it make you angry when…?
  • Which part did you like?
  • How hard was this to understand?



  • こんな経験ありますか
  • こんなとき、怒った気持ちになりますか
  • どのパートが気に入りましたか
  • これを理解するのは難しかったですか

What does it say?

One correct answer is found in the text.

  • Who is …?
  • What happens first?
  • Where are …?
  • What is the difinition of this word?



  • これは誰?
  • 何が最初に起きた?
  • これはどこですか?
  • この言葉の定義はなんですか?

What does it mean? How are the parts connected? what is the reason for people’s actions?

There is more than one possible answer, but the viewer’s opinion is based directly on the text.

  • Why did the speaker…?
  • What can we say about the speaker’s point of view?
  • What is the significance of the title?
  • What did the speaker mean when they said…?



  • どうして話者は...?
  • 話者の視点について、どんなことが言えますか。
  • タイトルにはどんな意味があるでしょう。
  • 話者が...といったのはどういう意味でしょう。

What is the message beyond this presentation? What are the greater issues or questions this piece deals with?

The presentation is not directly referenced in the question. There are many possible answers found outside of the presentation, but it’s a starting point.

  • How do people…?
  • Why do people…?
  • What is the truth about…?



  • 人々はどうやって...?
  • どうして人々は...?
  • ...の真実は何でしょう?

How effective is the presentation in whole or in part? Why did the speaker/author make these choices and how well do they work?

Many possible answers can be found outside of the presentation but it’s a reference.

  • Is it realistic when …?
  • How does the speaker use … to show …?
  • Would this be better if …?
  • Is the speaker biased towards/against…?



  • この箇所は現実味がありますか。
  • 話者がこの...をどのように表現しましたか。
  • もし...であればもっとよかったですか。
  • 話者は...の考え方に偏っていますか。

Expressions and terms🦧覚えておきたい単語・表現

Pick some terms that you are unfamiliar with from sentences you high-lightened and memorize them because you need them to discuss this chapter!!


termexample sentence
creedIn the new capitalist creed, the first and most sacred commandment is: ‘The profits of production must be reinvested in increasing production.’
investThe idea of progress is built on the notion that if we admit our ignorance and invest resources in research, things can improve.
creditThis trust created credit; credit brought real economic growth; growth strengthened the trust in the future.
collectivethe selfish human urge to increase private profits is the basis for collective wealth

How do you remember about Colonization? What did you learn in history class in school? What was really hard to understand as a kid was why did the Europeans choose to conquer and colonize? So, I’ve gotten this answer finally in this chapter, thanks to the author. My history teacher never gave me an aspect that was driven by the capitalists’ greed. And, I truly believe that this is very important for students to learn that how capitalism has played its role in history.