The Strength of Nations: A Study in Social Theory

By George Soule | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
IN THE BEGINNING

WISE PERSONS LOOK with justified suspicion on books which begin with a catalog of the ills which afflict human society. The unpleasant observations are only too obvious. If there is anyone left who still accepts the nineteenth-century belief in automatic progress, or who never looks beyond the vine-green walls of his old-fashioned garden of sweetness and light, he belongs in a sealed tube in the cornerstone of some monumental building, as a rarity to be preserved for study by future archaeologists. We cannot escape the facts. The purpose of anyone who now emphasizes them is usually to persuade us that anything would be better than this, and hence that we must, without caution, adopt his special program for escape.

But the scepticism of the informed has grown deeper than that of the easy program-makers. We have learned that among the evils most to be dreaded are some of the cures that have been most widely accepted. The severity of the disease does not prove the virtue of the nostrum. We have seen whole nations swallow strong patent medicines--and we have observed the effect of the remedies.

The pessimist today has a creed, not of one part alone, but of three. The first is the familiar one that there is great trouble in the world. The second is that so far as can be seen, the evils of which we complain are not getting better, but worse. And the third is that what makes

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