Quote [48] – Peace, Military Commerce & Our Individual Choice

“The importance of securing international peace was recognised by the really great men of former generations.  But the technical advances of our times have turned this ethical postulate into a matter of life and death for civilised mankind today, and made the taking of an active part in the solution of the problem of peace a moral duty which no conscientious man can shirk.

One has to realise that the powerful industrial groups concerned in the manufacture of arms are doing their best in all countries to prevent the peaceful settlement of international disputes, and that rulers can achieve this great end only if they are sure of the vigorous support of the majority of their peoples.  In these days of democratic government the fate of nations hangs on themselves; each individual must always bear that in mind.”

The world as I see it
“I am very glad of this opportunity of saying a few words to you about the problem of pacifism.  The course of events in the last few years has once more shown us how little we are justified in leaving the struggle against armaments and against the war spirit to the Governments.  On the other hand, the formation of large organisations with a large membership can of itself bring us very little nearer to our goal.  In my opinion, the best method in this case is the violent one of conscientious objection, with the aid of organisations for giving moral and material support to the courageous conscientious objectors in each country.  In this way we may succeed in making the problem of pacifism an acute one, a real struggle attracts forceful natures.  It is an illegal struggle, but a struggle for people’s real rights against their governments in so far as the latter demand criminal acts of the citizen.

Many who think themselves good pacifists will jib at this out-and-out pacifism, on patriotic grounds.  Such people are not to be relied on in the hour of crisis, as the World War amply proved.

I am most grateful to you for according me an opportunity to give you my views in person.”

The world as I see it

 

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Quote [42] – Pragmatism vs Ideology & Principles .. Policy and Action

To say that the future will be different from the present is, to scientists, hopelessly self-evident.  I observe regretfully that in politics, however, it can be heresy.  It can be denounced as radicalism or branded as subversion.  There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks.  They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of a comfortable past which, in fact, never existed. Make gentle the life of the world
Wise policy is setting priorities – differentiating between that which is merely important and that which is truly essential.  And it would be both callous and self-indulgent for those of us who sit comfortably at home to form policy without full knowledge and consciousness of the costs to others, young men and women and children, whose lives turn on the abstractions of our discussion. Make gentle the life of the world
“The weaknesses of your plan lie, so it seems to me, in the sphere of psychology, or rather in your neglect of it.  It is no accident that capitalism has brought with it progress not merely in production but also in knowledge.  Egoism and competition are, alas, stronger forces than public spirit and sense of duty.  In Russia, they say, it is impossible to get a decant piece of bread.  Perhaps I am over-pessimistic concerning State and other forms of communal enterprise, but I expect little good from them.  Bureaucracy is the death of all sound work.  I have seen and experienced too many dreadful warnings, even in comparatively model Switzerland.” The world as I see it
“I am inclined to the view that the state can only be of real use to industry as a limiting and regulative force.  It must see to it that competition among the workers is kept within healthy limits, that all children are given a change to develop soundly, and that wages are high enough for the goods produced to be consumed.  But it can exert a decisive influence through it regulative function if – – and there again you are right – – its measures are framed in an objective spirit by independent experts.” The world as I see it
“Politics is the pursuit of the possible, not the ideal” – Herbert Make gentle the life of the world

Quote [41] – The Dulling Social Expectation Of Poor Political Culture

All the phrases which have meant so much to Americans – peace and progress, justice and compassion, leadership and idealism – often sound not like stirring reminders of our nation, but call forth the cynical laughter or hostility of our young and many of our adults.  Not because they do not believe them, but they do no think our leaders mean them …

This is not simply the result of bad politics and lack of skill.  It flows from the fact that for almost the first time the national leadership is calling upon the darker impulses of the American spirit – not, perhaps, deliberately, but through its action and the example it sets – an example where integrity, truth, honour, and tall the rest seem like words to fill out speeches rather than guiding beliefs.  Thus we are turned inward.  People wish to protect what they have.  There is a failing of generosity and compassion.  There is an unwillingness to sacrifice or take risks.  All of this is contrary to the deepest and most dominant impulses of the American character – all that which had characterised two centuries of history.

Make gentle the life of the world

Quote Book – [40] – The Need For Idealism and Pragmatism In Government

But if there is one thing that President Kennedy stood for that touched the most profound feelings of young people around the world, it was the belief that idealism, high aspirations, and deep convictions are not incompatible with the most practical and efficient of programs – that there is no basic inconsistency between ideals and realistic possibilities, no separation between the deepest desires of heart and of mind and the rational application of human effort to human problems. Make gentle the life of this world
To say that the future will be different from the present is, to scientists, hopelessly self-evident.  I observe regretfully that in politics, however, it can be heresy.  It can be denounced as radicalism or branded as subversion.  There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks.  They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of a comfortable past which, in fact, never existed. Make gentle the life of the world
Wise policy is setting priorities – differentiating between that which is merely important and that which is truly essential.  And it would be both callous and self-indulgent for those of us who sit comfortably at home to form policy without full knowledge and consciousness of the costs to others, young men and women and children, whose lives turn on the abstractions of our discussion. Make gentle the life of the world

Quote Book – [36] – Society, Crime & Housing Provision

The real threat of crime is what it does to ourselves and our communities.  No nation hiding behind locked doors is free, for it is imprisoned by its own fear.  No nation whose citizens fear to walk their own streets healthy, for in isolation lies the poisoning of public participation.  A nation which surrenders to crime – whether by indifference or by heavy-handed repression – is a society which had resigned itself to failure.  Yet, disturbingly, many Americans seem to regard crime as a pervasive enemy that cannot be defeated.

Thus, the fight against crime is in the last analysis the same as the fight for equal opportunities, or the battle against hunger and deprivation, or the struggle to prevent the pollution of our air and water.  It is a fight to preserve that quality of community which is at the root of our greatness; a fight to preserve confidence in ourselves and our fellow citizens; a battle for the quality of our lives.

Our housing projects were built largely without either reference or relevance to the underlying problems of poverty, unemployment, social disorganisation, and alienation which caused people to need assistance in the first place.  Too many of the projects, as a result, becomes jungles – places of despair and danger for their residents, and for the cities they were designed to save.

Make Gentle The Life Of This World

Quote Book – [35] – Government & Society

Even as the drive toward bigness [and] concentration . . . has reached heights never before dreamt of in the past, we have come suddenly to realize how heavy a price we have paid . . . in loss of the values of nature and community and local diversity that found their nurture in the smaller towns and rural areas of America. And we can see, as we enter the last third of the twentieth century, that the price has been too high.
The question now assumes even greater urgency, as the growth of cities propels us toward the “mass society” – that frightening vision of people as interchangeable units, the middle class as powerless as the poor to affect the decisions of government.
One great problem is sheer growth, growth which crowds people into slums, thrusts suburbs out over the countryside, burdens to the breaking point all our old ways of thought and action-our systems of transportation and water supply, education, and even garbage collection. It also weighs heavily on our means of raising money to finance these vital services.

A second problem is the destruction of the physical environment, stripping people of contact with sun and fresh air, clean rivers, grass, and trees, condemning them to a life among stone and concrete, neon lights, and an endless river of automobiles.

A third problem is the increasing difficulty of transportation, adding concealed unpaid hours to the work week, removing man from the social and cultural amenities that are the heart of the city, sending destructive swarms of automobiles across the city, leaving behind them a band of concrete and a poisoned atmosphere.  And sometimes, as in Watts, our surrender to the mobile so crippled public transportation that thousands literally could not afford to go to work elsewhere in the city.

A fourth destructive force is the concentrated poverty and racial tension of the urban ghetto, a problem so vast that the barest recital of its symptoms is profoundly shocking.

The fifth is both the cause and consequence of all the rest. It is the destruction of the sense, and often the fact, of community, of human dialogue, of the thousand invisible strands of common experience and purpose, and of the affection and respect which tie men to their fellows.

It is expressed in such words as community, neighbourhood, civic pride, friendship. It provides the life-sustaining force of human warmth, or security among others, and a sense of one’s own human significance in the accepted association and companionship of others

Change is crowding our people into cities scarred by slums – encircles by suburbs which sprawl recklessly across the countryside, where movement is difficult, beauty rare, life itself more impersonal, and security imperiled by the lawless.
Therefore, the time has come … when we must actively fight bigness and over concentration, and seek instead to bring the engines of government, of technology, of the economy, fully under the control of our citizens, to recapture and reinforce the values of a more human time and place.
Growth has polluted our water and poisoned our air, and stripped us of contact with sunlight, trees and lakes.  Government has foundered as new agencies had proliferated, splitting tasks and energies among dozens of distant and unconnected bureaus.  Individuals have lost touch with the institutions of society, even with one another; and thus have become more and more both perpetrators and victims of coldness, cruelty, and violence.

Make gentle the life of this world

Quote Book – [32] – Society: People and its Government

If there is anything that we’ve learned during the 1960’s, all of us who are here, it is that violence is not the answer to our problems.  And let no one say that violence is the courageous way, that violence is the short route, that violence is the easy route.  Because violence will bring no answer : It will bring no answer to your union; it will bring no answer to your people; it will bring no answer to us here in the United States, as a people.

Punishment is not prevention.  History offers cold comfort to those who think grievance and despair can be subdued by force.  To understand is not to permit; but to fail to understand is the surest guarantee of failure.

Men without hope, resigned to despair and oppression, do not make revolutions.  It is when expectation replaces submission, when despair is touched with the awareness of possibility, that the force of human desire and the passion for justice are unloosed.
It is not bigness that should be our goal.  We must attempt, rather to bring people back to … the warmth of community, in the worth of individual effort and responsibility …and of individuals working together as a community, to better their lives and their children’s future.
An Essential Foundation

Community demands a place where people can see and know each other, where children can play and adults work together and join in the pleasures and responsibilities of the place where they live.

Action on any one front alone will not succeed.  Providing a man a job, while in my judgment the most important step we can take, will not improve the schools his children attend or assure that medical care will be available even though he can afford it.  Building new housing without providing social services or transportation to get to work or accessible health services will result in one slum replacing another.  Improving the quality of education or job training without any promise of a job at the end will not ease the dropout rate.  But action on all these matters in concert will build a community.

The city is … a place where men should be able to live in dignity and security and harmony, where the great achievements of modern civilisation and the ageless pleasures afforded by natural beauty should be available to all.

[Another great task] is to confront the poverty of satisfaction – a lack of purpose and dignity – that inflict us all.  Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.

Governments can err, presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that Divine Justice weights the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm hearted in a different scale.  Better the occasional faults of a government living in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.
Government is a very rough business, you must be content with very unsatisfactory results – Sir George Cornewall

Make gentle the life of this world

Quote Book – [31] – Society & Free speech

If our colleges and universities do not breed men who riot, who rebel, who attack life with all the youthful vision and vigour, then there is something wrong with our colleges.  The more riots that come on college campuses, the better world for tomorrow – William Allen White
Every dictatorship has ultimately strangles in the web of repression it wove for its people, making mistakes that could not be corrected because criticism was prohibited.

Make gentle the life of this world

 

Quote Book – [30] – Society & Government

Everything that makes man’s life worthwhile – family, work, education, a place to rear one’s children, and a place to rest one’s head – all this depends on decisions of government; all can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people.  Therefore, the essential humanity of men can be protected and preserved only where government must answer – not just to the wealthy, not just to those of a particular religion, or a particular race, but to all of its people.
There are hazards in debating American policy in the pace of a stern and dangerous enemy.  But that hazard is the essence of our democracy.  Democracy is no easy form of government.  Few nations have been able to sustain it.  For it requires that we take the chances of freedom; that the liberating play of reason be brought to bear in events filled with passion; that dissent be allowed to make its appeal for acceptance; that men chance error in their search for the truth…
The constitution protects wisdom and ignorance, compassion and selfishness alike.  But that dissent which consists simply of sporadic and dramatic acts sustained by neither continuing labour or research – that dissent which seeks to demolish while lacking both the desire and direction for rebuilding, that dissent which, contemptuously or out of laziness, casts aside the practical weapons and instruments of change and progress – that  kind of dissent is merely self-indulgence.  It is satisfying, perhaps, only to those who make it

Make gentle the life of this world

Quote Book -[23]-Civilsation, People, Blame, Bankers & Government

Whenever anything goes badly wrong, our first instinct is to blame those in charge – in this case, bankers, credit agencies, regulators, central bankers and governments.   We turn to blame the ideas only when it becomes obvious that those in charge were not exceptionally venal, greedy or incompetent, but were acting on what they believed to be sound principles: bankers in relying on risk management systems they believed to be robust, governments in relying on markets they believed to be stable, investors in believing in what the experts told them. In other words, our first reaction to crisis is scapegoating; it is only by delving deeper into the sources of the mistakes that the finger can be pointed to the system of ideas which gave rise to them.

Bankers have been the easiest targets, and understandably. They controlled trillions of dollars of wealth. They ruined their shareholders, their customers, their employees and the economy, while continuing to collect large bonuses.   They had ridden a boom in which nearly all profits went into private hands, followed by a gigantic bust in which taxpayers became liable for their losses. Spectacular payments for success may be acceptable; spectacular rewards for failure – especially if unaccompanied by contrition – are obscene.

‘Bring back the guillotine…for bankers,’ cried Britain’s Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesman Vince Cable in the Daily Mail on Monday 9 February 2009. ‘The bonus-hunting bankers…stand charged with destroying wealth on an epic scale. Foolish, greedy, irresponsible behaviour and excessive risk-taking led to massive losses…which [are] now costing millions their jobs and many their homes’. ‘Betting our cash for personal gains’ should be outlawed, thundered Will Hutton in the observer on 25 January 2009.

Keynes – The Return Of The Master

Robert Skidelsky

Nevertheless, there is something disagreeable about the mass hysteria directed against the bankers, reminiscent of ancient witch-hunts, pogroms and human sacrifices at times of poor harvest. It is also counter productive. Unless one is prepared to take over the banking system oneself, one cannot attack bankers for reckless lending and then expect them to lend, any more than one can condemn excessive profits and expect businessman to invest. Also, the polemics missed something. What does it mean to say bankers were ‘greedy’? The concept of greed is incomplete unless on has a notion of what is ‘enough’, which we lack. The more thoughtful realised that bankers’ failures were part of a wider intellectual and regulatory failure, as well as a moral climate which celebrated moneymaking above all other activities. Bankers were scapegoats for the whole Reagan-Thatcher era, which exalted finance and humbled industry, and which had allowed the fruits of progress to accrue disproportionately to the rich and super-rich. (The new class struggle, the quip had it, was between the haves and the have-yachts.)

Moreover, in following ‘risk-management’ models which they barely understood, bankers acted, in their own lights, correctly.

Indeed, had they acted otherwise, they might have been held culpable for failing to ‘maximise shareholder value’. Their behaviour, while selfish and self-satisfied, was in the highest degree conventional. They swallowed the whole securitisation philosophy without understanding its ramifications. Many of them no doubt felt they were conferring a public benefit by enabling poor people to acquire homes and other desirable goods. Keynes hit the nail on the head when he wrote, ‘The “sound” banker, alas! Is not one who sees danger and avoids it, but one who, when he is ruined, is ruined in a conventional and orthodox way along with this fellows so that no one can really blame him.’

Keynes – The Return Of The Master

Robert Skidelsky