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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 10 October 2010
This is the text of a BBC radio series - the very first 'Reith Lectures', a series of 6, broadcast in 1948.

Fascinating, but rather baffling mixture. Russell said afterwards that everyone agreed with what he said, so he thought he must have been wrong. The Soviet Union was reportedly furious at social Darwinist references from Sir Arthur Keith.

Anyway Russell's object was to
[1] Promote world government. This was to avoid nuclear war. The sole function of world government was to prevent war. [Note: this is unlike any usual conception of government, and isn't described in any detail]
[2] Permit competition between states. There should be competition, but not war. Everything should be hierarchical, with lower levels allowed the maximum of freedom compatible with the layer(s) above. The internal arrangements of each state, or territory etc, should be their own business only.

That in essence is his world government idea.

Subsidiary to that are various other aims (roughly, 'the individual') Russell thinks
[1] Moral reformers of the first rank usually opposed cruelties, and were themselves opposed by the masses. This is obviously taken straight from Christianity, 'Jesus' and e.g. Wilberforce; Confucians, Taoists, Jews, Muslims would recognise none of this.
[2] Intellectual progress - this means poetic, mystic, artistic, scientific - is necessary, and the best that can be done is insist on free speech. Competition should be intellectual and academic, not economic. (It's not clear where propaganda would slot in - probably it's expected not to flourish. A philosopher's idea of competition, not a businessman's. And of course could conflict with internal arrangements!)
[3] Diversity is important, because it gives material for selection to work on - uniformity is not helpful.
[4] The long view of history suggests units get larger and larger, the entire globe being the obvious limit. (Russell doesn't really consider that maybe this is an artefact of the last couple of thousand years, and may not last, though he does date modern states to the invention of gunpowder, 15th century).
[5] Poverty is a cause of instability. He specifically instances south east Asia, mainly I suppose China and India; the huge population growth in Africa wasn't then clear. (Again, who knows; poverty-stricken hordes in remote areas may well be more stable than worldwide relative equality).

Much of Russell's argument is highly dubious: he says scientists are indifferent to money, which may have been true in Victorian times and earlier, but certainly doesn't apply now, though of course he was thinking of really first rank people. Another oddity is his distinctively 20th century omission of Jews; for instance he says the career of Lenin was astonishing - when of course it was simply a matter of being funded. Interestingly, he says nothing of mass migrations - in those days, expensive ocean liners were almost the only method of migration, so the modern stuff is totally omitted. He offloads (e.g.) shortage of oil and uranium onto the future - with luck, inventiors will invent new inventions.

Recommended as the product of someone who spent his life thinking, and was trying to sum up after the immense catastrophes of 20th century wars. But it's not even remotely definitive.
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