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Civilization is the organization of intelligent beings into systems which maximize the common good while minimizing individual suffering. Perhaps the most basic invention at the core of civilization is the division of labor, which removes the necessity for each individual to be completely self-sufficient and thereby dramatically increases productivity.
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Levels of Civilization
(an attempt at taxonomy; could probably stand much improvement by better-informed authors)
- chaos / anarchy ("every man for himself", or "give me your food or I'll kill you")
- rule-of-force by fiat ("give me your food or I'll kill you and your family")
- rule-of-force by convincing excuse, a.k.a. Divine Right of Kings ("give me your food or God will kill you" or "...will send you to Hell")
- rule-of-force for mutual benefit ("give me your food, and I'll prevent the neighboring king from killing you and taking your food anyway")
- rule-of-force with protective hierarchy ("give me your house's food, or I'll have the other houses take your farm")
- rule-by-law ("give me your house's food because that's what the contract says")
- king must obey the rules or be deposed
- rules say who can be king, and under what circumstances
- democracy ("the worst form of government ever invented, except for all the others")