Few men seem to realize how many of the …

Few men seem to realize how many of the evils from which we suffer are wholly unnecessary, and that they could be abolished by a united effort within a few years. If a majority in every civilized country so desired, we could, within twenty years, abolish all abject poverty, quite half the illness in the world, the whole economic slavery which binds down nine tenths of our population; we could fill the world with beauty and joy, and secure the reign of universal peace. It is only because men are apathetic that this is not achieved, only because imagination is sluggish, and what always has been is regarded as what always must be. With good-will, generosity, intelligence, these things could be brought about.

The world is full of preventible evils which most men would be glad to see prevented. Nevertheless, these evils persist, and nothing effective is done toward abolishing them. This paradox produces astonishment in inexperienced reformers, and too often produces disillusionment in those who have come to know the difficulty of changing human institutions. War is recognized as an evil by an immense majority in every civilized country; but this recognition does not prevent war. The unjust distribution of wealth must be obviously an evil to those who are not prosperous, and they are nine tenths of the population. Nevertheless it continues unabated. The tyranny of the holders of power is a source of needless suffering and misfortune to very large sections of mankind; but power remains in few hands, and tends, if anything, to grow more concentrated. I wish first to study the evils of our present institutions, and the causes of the very limited success of reformers in the past, and then to suggest reasons for the hope of a more lasting and permanent success in the near future.

Bertrand Russell: Political Ideals (1917)

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