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By Noam Chomsky

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Sample text

The chief social problem is that of generating and unifying the social will that creates activity, change and what we have been wont to call progress. Differences in the availability and effectiveness of dynamic forces are not matters of mass preference but largely of historical necessity. The Russians by going socialist did not create the expansive forces which are now carrying them forward. They merely provided those forces with a new and more efficient vehicle. The same forces made a success of capitalism in America during the nineteenth century: the frontier, population growth, the industrial revolution, extension of public instruction and the suffrage.

Our legal priesthood, which we owe to the Protestant Reformation and the eighteenth century French rationalists, has taken over the functions and the technique of exploiting myths for the purposes of social control formerly monopolized by the priests of the Roman church and other great cults of the past. And so it happens, in an essentially technological and economic age, we have most of our social thinking done by men with the minds of priests; not by men with the mentality of engineers and executives who live by getting things done, but by lawyers and teachers who live by talking and writing about how things should be done—and devising ways of keeping things from being done, or excusing their not having been done.

So far as nations are concerned, and it happens to be nations and not angels that we are talking about, the best definition of an ethic is something the people are willing to fight for. And ethics are not only what nations fight for but what makes them fight. The truth is that every nation has made a supreme ethic of war and no nation has ever really made a supreme ethic of peace. The proof is simple: Every nation is ready voluntarily to make the supreme sacrifice for war. What great or small nation in modern times has ever voluntarily, or 25 otherwise than under foreign military compulsion, made a really great sacrifice for peace?

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