The Case for Socialism

In Editor's Choice

Bertrand Russell

In the present state of the world, not only are many people destitute, but the majority of those who are not are haunted by a perfectly reasonable fear that they may become so at any moment. Wage-earners have the constant danger of unemployment; salaried employees know that their firm may go bankrupt or find it necessary to cut down its staff; business men, even those who are reputed to be very rich, know that the loss of all their money is by no means improbable. Professional men have a very hard struggle.

After making great sacrifices for the education of their sons and daughters, they find that there are not the openings that there used to be for those who have the kinds of skill that their children have acquired. If they are lawyers, they find that people can no longer afford to go to law, although serious injustices remain unremedied; if they are doctors, they find that their formerly lucrative hypochondriac patients can no longer afford to be ill, while many genuine sufferers have to forgo much-needed medical treatment.

One finds men and women of university education serving behind the counters in shops, which may save them from destitution, but only at the expense of those who would formerly have been so employed. In all classes, from the lowest to almost the highest, economic fear governs men’s thoughts by day and their dreams at night, making their work nerve-racking and their leisure unrefreshing. This ever-present terror is, I think, the main cause of the mood of madness which has swept over great parts of the civilized world.

— Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935), Ch. VII, The Case for Socialism, 3. Economic Insecurity, p. 90

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