Rules for Aging: A Wry and Witty Guide to Life

Rule 1: It doesn’t matter
It doesn’t matter what you do, you will die anyway.

Rule 2: Nobody is thinking about you
People are thinking about themselves, just like you

Rule 3: Let bad enough alone
People belief that persistent clarification after one has  a social blunder will make everything all right. But sometimes, it is better to leave things alone.

Rule 4: Ignore your enemy or kill him
Pay no attention to your enemy, if you still want to, you may want to kill him.

Rule 5: Boo yourself of the stage
If you think your life is not up to your standard, lead the booing yourself

Rule 6: Yes you did
If you have the slightest question as to whether or not you are responsible for a wrongdoing, yes you did.

Rule 7: After the age of 30, it is unseemly to blame one’ s parents for one’s life

Rule 8: If something is boring you, it is probably you

Rule 9: Stay clear of anyone – other than clergyman – who refers to God more than once in an hour
People can misused God’s word for his own benefits

Rule 10: Swine rules
a. A swine is not a swan
A swine will never change, do not treat them kindly and expect them to change
b. A swine is known to be a swine
Everyone knows a swine is a swine
c. When a swine sucks up, he is still a swine.
A swine is a swine all the time.

Rule 11: Listen for the word great
When someone says “Great”, most likely they are not sincere.

Rule 12: Listen for the question, what are you talking about?
When someone asks you that, they know what you are talking about

Rule 13: Appearance is frequently reality

Rule 14: Be not witty; neither shalt thou be clever

Rule 15: Pursue virtue, but don’t sweat it
People will likely to betray, not out of malice, but because of self-preservation

Rule 16: Do not go to your left
Going to one’s left is a basketball term for strengthening one’s weakness. However, life is not like basketball. In life, if you attempt to compensate for a weakness, you will usually grow weaker or fail.

Rule 17: Everyone’s work is magnificent
Everyone wants to believe that their work is magnificent

Rule 18: Consult everyone on everything and don’t’ forget to send ingratiating notes
Most people except your friends and family don’t want you to succeed, but once you consult them for their advices, they will side with you. Later, send them thank you note.

Rule 19: Strife is better than loneliness

Rule 20: Loneliness is better than eggs Benedict
Some people think that hanging out with semi friends will make them feel less lonely

Rule 21: Male and female compatibility rules
a. She’s right
b. She’s really thinking about nothing. 

Rule 22: Run when you hear any of the following sentence
a. Unity and hormony
b. Love, unity and harmony
c. Humanity
d. The human spirit

Rule 23: Never miss an opportunity to do nothing

Rule 24: Do not go for Cyrano’s nose

Rule 25: That couldn’t be a book
From time to time people will respond to an idea and say, “That could be a book”. It couldn’t. Books are made out of big ideas, big themes, Unless your book has these, don’t bother writing one.

Rule 26: Do not keep company with people who speak of careers
These people are not interesting, and have no interest in anything interesting

Rule 27: Just because the person who  you is an idiot, doesn’t make him wrong

Rule 28: Never go to a cocktail party , and in any case, do not stay more than 20 minutes

Rule 29: Envy no one – ever

Rule 30: Believe everyone – always
Believe everyone and you will think that life is well intended

Rule 31: Do not attempt to improve anyone, especially when you know it will help
Telling them of their faults won’t make them change

Rule 32: If they tell you it’s a long shot, it is

Rule 33: Never bring news of slander to a friend

Rule 34: t’s not about you

Rule 35: Never say any of the following
a. That’s the best thing you’ve ever done
b. How much is this boat?
c. My door is always open
d. You look lovely today
e. Why not
f. Do we really need a contract?

Rule 36: If you want to keep a man honest, never call him a liar

Rule 37: The waitress is not waiting for you

Rule 38: Push the wheel forward
Life is more fun when you play at full speed.

Rule 39: Dress for duress

Rule 40: A long and happy life lasts for 5 minutes
Don’t try to sacrifice what you have for a short moment of happiness, it is not worth it.

Rule 41: Never work for anyone more insecure than yourself

Rule 42: The unexamined life lasts longer

Rule 43: No, they don’t – and so what
No one owes you anything

Rule 44: Abjure fame but avoid obscurity

Rule 45: Fast and steady wins the race
Steady excellences, consistent work wins the race

Rule 46: To thine own self be true – unless you would like to be someone else
If you don’t like who you are, you may be right

Rule 47: Culture rules
a. See no movie that has been called exquisite
b. Read no novel that has been called brave
c. Attend no concert that has been called long
d. Attend no opera that begins with the word “Der”

Rule 48: if it’s just a teeny-weeny bit wrong – destroy it
If something is a little wrong, it is all wrong

Rule 49: Never think on vacation
Just don’t think. Keep the mind in its safe and stupid mode, the way you like it when on vacation

Rule 50: Change no more than one-eight of your life at a time
Most people tend to change everything in their lives, when they decided to change. This is unsustainable.

Rule 51: Do not expect gratitude from everybody for everything

Rule 52: Live in the past, but don’t remember too much

Rule 53: Never do it for money

Rule 54: remember the amana
Everyone one of life little mishaps can be kept in perspective if one focuses on one’s original goal

Rule 55: If you are strange enough, they will come

Rule 56: Never light the fire from the top
Never try to achieve things with haste, do not use shortcuts. Embrace the process.

Rule 57: The game is played away from the ball
The more interesting thing in the news (or anything in life) happens behind the scene. When someone achieves great success, that is only 1% of the whole journey, most of it is spent doing the hard work.

Rule 58: Apologise, reconcile and give help

How to Write Well: 4 Steps to Improve Your Writing

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

Introduction 

Looking back, I always struggled with writing. I felt pain every time I try to fill a blank page. I could bear the pain of writing in high school, but I almost gave up in university. I could read many books and understand the lectures, but give me a writing task? My mind went blank as if I never understood any of the concepts. Maybe I do not understand what I learned and the struggle to write is a symptom. Or it could be that I have been reading bad writings in university, which affects my thought process. Or maybe some concepts are complex, and I struggle to communicate them. Nonetheless, writing is my major weakness.

I tried to search for help with my writing. Reading books on writing did nothing. Most books tend to give generic advice such as “Don’t use passive voice” or “Be clear”. These are bad advices, similar to how “just be yourself” is the worst dating advice. Everyone knows you should do it, but no one tells you why it works.

How do I isolate the mechanics of writing and focus on each component one by one, thereby improving my writing? After further research, I have explored the potential answers to these questions. This article will outline the aspects of good writing namely clarity, cohesiveness, emphasis and conciseness.

Table of Contents
1. Good writing is clear
2. Good writing is cohesive
3. Good writing has emphasis
4. Good writing is concise

Good writing is clear

Clear prose is one that a reader can understand. But it is not enough merely to be understandable. A statement can be easily understood yet tells nothing interesting to the reader. That is a common flaw in clickbait journalism like BuzzFeed. Readers can understand it, yet it does not captivate anyone. So, what makes prose clear and good? Clear prose is good when it tells a story. A story has two components – characters and actions. The characters are the subjects of the sentences that name the cast of the characters. Meanwhile, the actions are the verbs that go with these subjects.

Every prose can be simplified using these two principles. When your prose seems too complex, locate the cast of characters and their actions. Remove the unnecessary information and focus on these two components. Once you have clear subjects and their action, add more information if needed.

A prose may also be difficult to read when it has unnecessary nominalisations. Nominalisation is the process of making a noun from a verb or an adjective. Since nominalisation is a noun, it does not carry the same weight to the prose like an action word. Prose that contains a subject and a nominalisation lacks the element of a good story. Consider the following examples:

1. Our lack of knowledge about local conditions precluded determination of committee action effectiveness in fund allocation to those areas in greatest need of assistance.

2. Because we know nothing about the local conditions, we could not determine how effectively the committee had allocated funds to areas that need the most assistance.

Readers will find (2) clearer than (1). Not only (2) relies on fewer nominalisations than (1), it also uses more verbs that express actions. (2) also tells the readers a story. There are clear subjects (we, committee) and the actions know, determine and allocate. This creates a clear story in (2) and makes it more interesting than (1). 

Good writing is cohesive

Cohesive prose means that the separate sentences that form the prose flow into a single, unified whole. Williams and Colomb (1990) illustrate the principle of cohesion:

“Put at the beginning of a sentence those ideas that you have already mentioned, referred to, or implied, or concepts that you can reasonably assume your reader is already familiar with, and will readily recognize.”

The principle suggests that we focus on one concept at a time. Prose that does this will have a consistent topic string, which will make it feels more focused and cohesive. Prose that breaks this rule, such as an arduously long sentence usually does not focus on one topic. Hence, the reader will struggle to assemble these concepts into a cohesive discourse. Consider the following examples:

1. The hotel is famous. It is one of the most well-known hotels in the country. The latest international dancing competition was held at the hotel. The hotel spent a lot of money to advertise the event. Because the hotel wanted to gain an international reputation. But not many people attended the event.

2. The hotel, which is one of the most well-known hotels in this region, wanted to promote its image around the world by hosting the latest international dancing competition. Although the event was widely advertised, not many people participated in the competition.

The first paragraph has inconsistent topic strings, such as hotel, international dancing competition and people. These topics strings are not introduced properly, hence, it feels disjointed. Furthermore, the characters do not have any actions attached to it, making the paragraph lacks a story. The lack of story and the inconsistent topic strings make the paragraph confusing. 

Compare this to the second paragraph, where it has only two topic strings, hotel and event. The character, hotel has an action wanted. The combination of a character and an action creates a story in the sentence. In addition, the second sentence starts by repeating the event, which the writer has mentioned in the first sentence. Therefore, the second paragraph has a story and consistent topic strings. As a result, the paragraph feels more cohesive.

Good writing has emphasis

Prose has a good emphasis when it ends itself well. To emphasise, Williams and Colomb (1990) suggest readers to:

“Put at the end of your sentence the newest, the most surprising, the most significant information: information that you want to stress – perhaps the information that you will expand on in your next sentence.”

Most writers struggle to write well when the subjects use technical terms. Technical terms are confusing when they are not introduced properly. This technique is helpful when communicating complex information that requires technical terms. When you introduce complex information, design the sentence that it appears in, so that you can locate that term at the end.

Why does this work? When you end a sentence with a good emphasis, the readers know what to expect in the sentence. A sentence that does not end with an emphasis, will feel monotonous. Also, putting the emphasis at the end has more impact on the reader’s feeling. Consider the following examples:

1. My friend John commented, “The movie Captain America was thrilling”.
2. “The movie Captain America was thrilling”, my friend John commented.

In the first sentence, the word “thrilling” is the emphasis, which is a strong endorsement for the film. In the second example, the sentence ends with the word “commented”, which does not carry any impact. Meanwhile, the word “thrilling” is buried in the middle of the sentence. This diminishes its impact to the readers. 

Good writing is concise

Prose is concise when it gives a lot of information clearly and in the fewest words. Williams and Colomb (1990) outline two principles to be concise:

a. Compress what you mean into the fewest words
b. Don’t state what your reader can easily refer

Principle (a) means writers should remove any redundancy or unnecessary wordiness in the prose. Principle (b) means that we remove attribution that does not add anything to the prose. One way that a writer can violate these two principles is by using an attribution. An attribution tells the reader the source of ideas or facts. When the attribution does not add anything to the point, it should be removed. Consider the following examples:

      “Regular patterns of drought and precipitation have been found to coincide with cycles of sunspot activity” 

which can be simplified to:

      “Regular patterns of drought and precipitation coincide with cycles of sunspot activity”

Not only the phrase “have been found” adds nothing to the prose, it also does not state the subject. Removing the phrase will make the prose above more concise.

Conclusion

To conclude, I have identified the aspects of good writing, which are clarity, cohesiveness, emphasis and conciseness. Any writer who aspires to improve their crafts should practice these aspects. Nonetheless, these are not the panacea for all your struggles with writing. There are many other aspects of good writing. And only with continuous practice and the iterative process of writing will help you to improve this craft. 

Books and resources on writing well

  1. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace
  2. The Craft of Writing Effectively (YouTube)
  3. Ohio State University: The Function and Value of Academic Writing

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I Will Teach You to Be Rich (Book Review)

I have been resisting to read I Will Teach You to Be Rich for a while now because of the clickbait title and weird book cover (on the 2009 version), although it has good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. After seeing Personal Finance and FIRE (Financial Independence/ Retire Early) subreddits recommending this book, I decided to watch some YouTube videos by the author, Ramit Sethi. Surprisingly, Ramit has interesting perspectives on managing money and personal finance. This article will review the book, its key messages and the insights that I find interesting. 

No more Ramit on the cover.

Summary

I Will Teach You to Be Rich employs a unique approach in personal finance, which is to use insights from Psychology and applying them in personal finance. This is similar to the idea of nudging in Behavioural Economics, which is to design the choice architecture surrounding your personal finance behaviour in ways that promote certain desired actions. His main messages are:

Start Today

Starting earlier enables your money to increase exponentially via compound interest. If you start investing earlier in life, your money will have more time to grow.

Focus on The Big Wins.

When cutting down your spending, focus on the Big Wins, which are the areas where you are spending a lot but do not mind reducing with some efforts. For example, unnecessary subscriptions or eating out. 

Spend extravagantly on the things you love and cut costs mercilessly on the things you do not love.

Similar to the above, after getting the Big Wins, you should allocate some money on the things that you love.

There is a difference between having possessions and living a rich life.

Ramit urges readers to start defining their own rich life and asking themselves why they want to be rich? Whether it is to have the freedom to make your own career decisions or being able to allocate time for family and the things that you love. Regardless of the reasons, it is important to define your own rich life and understand that personal finance is a tool to achieve that goal.

Do not live in the spreadsheet. Start today, automate your finance and live your life.

Using the techniques in this book, you can automate your money management. Once you have the automation system set up, you can live your life and spend less time thinking about financial issues.

Managing Your Credit Card, Bank Accounts and Investments 

The first three chapters cover personal finance basics such as managing credit card and choosing a bank account. Ramit compares all the American retail banks and recommends the ones that he thinks are good. Chapter three discusses pension and investment and recommends readers to maximise their pension contribution and allocate a certain fraction to your investment account. 

Money Dial

Chapter 4 focuses on money dial, the idea that you should cut cost mercilessly on the things you do not love but spend extravagantly on the things you do. Some of the things that people love are fitness, wellness, convenience, eating out or clothing. For example, although I subscribe to Netflix and other streaming services, I do not fully use them, therefore, I should cut them mercilessly. After that, I can use this extra money and spend extravagantly on things I love. Since I love fitness, I can spend the extra money to hire a personal trainer or buy the highest quality shoes. If I love clothing, I can spend on buying luxurious clothes rather than buying cheaper ones. 

Increasing Your Income

Next, Ramit discusses ways to increase your incomes such as negotiating for a raise, changing jobs or freelancing. Ramit explains elaborately on the steps that you should take to negotiate for a raise, starting from the discussing with your manager and executing the deal.

This is my favourite chapter from the book as it gives practical advice on negotiating for a higher salary or a promotion. If there is one chapter that you need to read, it is this one. I strongly recommend reading this chapter with the book Never Split the Difference. Both this chapter and Never Split the Difference have solid strategies for negotiations. 

Automating Your Finance

In chapter 5, Ramit outlines the ways you can automate your savings, then, in chapter 6, he discusses the myth of expert. With the advent of digital banking, your money management can be automated. For example, you can ask your bank to automatically transfer money between accounts and pay bills (utilities and credit cards). In terms of investment, Ramit recommends the readers to invest in low-cost index funds rather than relying on wealth managers. Next, Ramit discusses ways to maintain this automated system, tax laws and when to sell your assets. 

Money and Relationship

Finally, Ramit ends the book with his own experience in communicating about money issue with his partner. These include the kinds of conversations that you should have before getting married and planning for the wedding.

One thing I find interesting from this chapter is dealing with the taboo surrounding having conservation about money with your partner. It is one of those things where people know they should be doing, but most people do not do it. Additionally, Ramit suggests several ways to reduce your wedding expenses such as by cutting the fixed costs. Fixed costs are expenses that are constant regardless of the amount of good or services produced. For example, photographer, rentals, flowers, invitations, dress and rings. Ramit demonstrates that cutting fixed costs would enable you to reduce your wedding spending significantly. 

Conclusion 

Overall, the book has been very engaging. Ramit offers interesting perspectives not just on managing money, but also on communicating with other people about your financial goals. The book aims to guide people to define their own rich life and I think it managed to do that well. 

I Will Teach You to Be Rich targets young adults who are starting to learn about finance and the advice may seem basic for people who have already dabbled in the personal finance world. Nonetheless, I applaud Ramit’s effort in encouraging people to start early and spreading positive outlook on others’ personal finance. 

Click here to visit the Amazon book page (affiliate link), where it is available in multiple formats.

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The Definitive Guide to Investing in Malaysia

The News Straits Times reports that young Malaysians have low financial literacy. This is very alarming and reflects our poor education system, which fails to teach this important skill. 

It is important now more than ever to learn about investing. Investing is an important skill to learn simply because there is a limit to how much work a person can do. A normal human typically works from the age of 20 to 50, and then the body will reach its limit. Thus, investing will enable you to have a source of income even after you stop working. 

This guide will provide a brief review of investment options in Malaysia, their returns and how you can start. Note that this guide is for beginners and I have excluded other riskier options such as Forex, properties and cryptocurrencies. In addition, I do not recommend unit trust funds because of the high management fees which can eat up your capital.

Table of Content

  1. EPF
  2. ASB
  3. Stock market
  4. REITs
  5. ETF
  6. Crowdfunding
  7. P2P Lending
  8. Robo Advisor
  9. Bonds
  10. Conclusion
  11. Investing FAQ

1. Employees Provident Fund (EPF, Malay: “Kumpulan Wang Simpanan Pekerja”)

EPF (Malay: KWSP) contribution is deducted from your monthly salary and saved for your retirement. These savings are comprised of you and your employer’s contribution plus the yearly dividend. The statutory contribution rate is currently 11% and your employer will contribute another 12% or 13% of your salary. Nonetheless, you can opt to contribute more.

Returns

EPF reports that its past 30 years return on average is 6.26% and its all-time return is 5.94%. 

EPF historical returns chart (Source: MyPF)

How to start

If you are already working, your salary will be automatically deducted and contributed to your EPF account. 

Further Resources

EPF’s website (Contribution)

2. Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB)

ASB is an investment scheme launched by the Malaysian government for Bumiputera. The investment fund aims to generate competitive and consistent long-term returns for the shareholders. Meanwhile, non-Bumiputera can invest in Amanah Saham Malaysia (ASM), although it has lower returns than ASM

How to start

You can register for an ASB account at your nearest local ASNB branch. 

Returns

ASB all-time return is 9.91% while its average 10-year return is 7.94%.

ASB Dividend Chart since 1990 (Plotted in R, Source: MyPF)

Further Resources

ASB Product Page

3. Stock Market

A stock is proof of ownership in a company. When you buy a stock, you own a piece of that company. If the company does well, the stock price goes up. In addition, if the company makes a profit, it will share its profit with shareholders in the form of dividends.

How to start

Go to the investment branch of local banks to sign up for a CDS account. For example, Maybank investments or CIMB investment. Alternatively, you can use online stockbroking accounts such as TD Ameritrade or IG.

Returns

Depends on which company, how much dividends offered and how the stock has performed. 

Further Resources

Bursa Marketplace

4. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

REIT provides an option to invest in properties by paying a smaller fraction of the real estate prices. REITs provide a way to invest in high-quality real estate, without having to deal with the risks associated with it. Similar to stock, when you buy REIT, you won a piece of a particular real estate. The main benefits of investing in REITs are their affordability and liquidity. Affordability because REITs only cost a fraction of the original real estate price. Liquidity means that units of REITs can be converted to cash quickly as these units are traded on the stock exchange.

How to start

Similar to stocks, when you sign up for CDS account, you can start investing in REIT.

Returns

Returns range from 8 to 20% depending on which REIT.

Further Resources

The Intelligent Investor

5. Exchange Traded Funds (ETF)

Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) combines the feature of an index fund with a stock. When buying an ETF unit, you buy a piece of a group of companies, rather than one company. ETF is suitable for investors who want to diversify their portfolio, without investing in any particular stock.

How to start

Similar to stocks and REIT, when you sign up for CDS account, you can start investing in REIT.

Returns

Returns range from 8 to 15% depending on which ETF.

Further Resources

The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing 

6. Crowdfunding 

Crowdfunding is a method of financing a new business using small amounts of capitals from a large amount of people. Crowdfunding works by connecting people with new business ideas and other people who support those ideas. Examples of Malaysian crowdfunding platforms are Leet Capital, MyStartr and Crowdplus.

How to start

Click Further Resources below and sign up on one of the crowdfunding platforms.

Returns

There are many crowdfunding platforms, some focus on generating profitable business while others are social enterprises. Each crowdfunding has different returns. 

Further Resources

List of registered Malaysian crowdfunding platform

7. P2P Lending

P2P Lending is a form of lending between individual investors and companies, cutting the financial institutions role as the middleman. Businesses that rely on P2P lending are usually high-growth small and medium enterprises (SMEs). 

How to start

Click Further Resources below and sign up on one of the P2P platforms.

Returns

Depending on the company, P2P Lending can have returns ranging from 10 to 14%, with higher risk as well. 

Further Resources

List of registered Malaysian P2P platform

8. Robo advisor

Robo advisor is a service that uses algorithms to match a client’s needs with a specific investment portfolio. As the name suggests, the robo advisor relies on little to no human management. Robo advisor is suitable for people who want to invest but do not want to micromanage their investments. 

How to start

At the time of writing, the robo advisor platforms that have received approval from Securities Commission Malaysia are MyTHEO, StashAway and Wahed.

9. Other resources

There are many resources online to learn about investing. For absolute beginners, I will recommend the following:

10. Conclusion

Malaysia has relatively mature and diverse options for people looking to invest their money. Choosing which to invest depends on several factors such as your salary, returns and the risk associated with each investment. However, the most important thing is to start early. Compounding interest works wonder and you will be surprised how much your net worth will be after two and three decades. For specific investment instrument, I would recommend ASB as it has low cost and risk. Once you have maxed out your ASB, you can start diversifying in other investments.

11. Investing FAQs

I don’t have the time to learn about investing, what can I do?

Contribute more towards your EPF. EPF is deducted automatically from your salary and you can opt for a higher contribution per month. If your salary is RM2000, 15% contribution per month means it is RM3600 annually. With a 6% growth rate, your contributions will be around RM300,000 in 30 years. Most Malaysians do not have cash for your retirement and having that amount is definitely better than nothing.

When should I start investing?

Now. Starting earlier enables your money to increase exponentially via compound interest. I can emphasise this enough, the earlier you start investing, the more time your money has to grow. If you’re not willing to invest in the riskier options, start with ASB. For non-Bumiputera, start with ASM (Amanah Saham Malaysia).

Are these investments halal or Syariah-compliant?

Most of these instruments have both non-Syariah compliant and Syariah-compliant options including EPF. For ASB, there are debates around its status. Currently, the general consensus is it is halal although a portion of it should be contributed to zakat

Rise and Fall of The Great Powers (Book Review)

Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (affiliate link) traces the development of major empires since the 16th century and seek to explain the reasons for their rise and fall. Compare to other works in the literature, this book focuses on the interaction between economic factors and strategy rather than finding one general rules about the formation of states and empires. Kennedy’s main thesis is a state’s power increases as its production capacity grows. The larger economy makes it easier for the state to sustain armaments during peace and finance military fleets during wartime. However, if a state overextends itself by allocating too many resources in its military or conquering territories more than what it can manage, other rivals can catch up with them.

The first chapter surveys the strengths and weaknesses of great powers in the dawn of the 16th century – Ming China, the Ottoman Empire, the Mogul empire, Tokugawa Japan, Muscovy, and the smaller states in western Europe. Kennedy argues that despite having large economies and sophisticated inventions, these empires suffer from having centralized authority which limits the formation of new ideas, military development and commercial endeavours. On the other hand, due to the lack of a central authority, European states manage to develop newer technologies and inventions. 

The book did well in providing a broad yet detailed survey of each empire’s economy and political structure on its own. For example, in the first chapter, Kennedy provides a detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of great powers in the dawn of the 16th century – Ming China, the Ottoman Empire, the Mogul empire, Tokugawa Japan, Muscovy, and the smaller states in western Europe. Kennedy argues that despite having large economies and sophisticated inventions, these empires suffer from having centralised authority which limits the formation of new ideas, military development and commercial endeavours. On the other hand, due to the lack of a central authority, European states manage to develop newer technologies and inventions. 

What the book lacks however is explaining why other regions did not develop like Europe despite not having a central authority. An example of this is the African subcontinent. Despite political fragmentations, the region never developed anywhere close to Europe. In the book, Kennedy never dealt with this issue. In addition, Kennedy did not explain how empires such as Ming China and Tokugawa Japan could develop in the first place despite having centralised authorities.

To sum up, in Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (affiliate link), Kennedy argues that a state’s power increases as its production capacity grows. As a state overextends itself by allocating too many resources in its military or conquering territories more than what it can manage, other rivals can catch up with them. Finally, the state declines and is replaced by another state. I recommend this book to those who are interested in detailed history of the rise of empires. However, the book spans 500 pages and its deep flaws suggest that you should consider to invest your time in other similar books such as Toynbee’s A Study of History or Kissinger’s Diplomacy.

Click here to visit the Amazon book page (affiliate link), where it is available in multiple formats.

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